Sunday, April 9, 2017

Azarenka to return in Bank of the West Classic

Victoria Azarenka begins a practice at Indian Wells
last year by tossing a football. Azarenka went on to
win the title and the following Miami Open for a rare
Sunshine Double. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka announced today that she will return to the WTA tour in the Bank of the West Classic, July 31-Aug. 6 at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
   Azarenka gave birth to her first child, a son named Leo, on Dec. 20. The 27-year-old Belarus native will make her fifth appearance at Stanford, where she won the singles title in 2010 and the doubles crown with Maria Kirilenko of Russia in 2011.
   "I am very excited to be returning to the WTA at the Bank of the West Classic," said Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion (2012 and 2013 Australian Open). "Becoming a mother has been the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me and really puts things in perspective. I am looking forward to beginning this new stage of my career."
   Azarenka, who will turn 28 on the first day of the Bank of the West Classic, has another Northern California connection besides her Stanford titles. Slava Konikov, in his 12th season as the Sacramento State men's coach, worked extensively with her when she was a junior in Belarus.
   In Azarenka's last match on the tour, she retired in the first round of the 2016 French Open against Karin Knapp of Italy with a knee injury that also caused her to withdraw from Wimbledon.
   Earlier last year, Azarenka became only the third woman besides Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters to pull off a Sunshine Double, winning back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami.
   The Bank of the West Classic also received a commitment from 10th-ranked Madison Keys, who recently launched a comeback of her own. The 22-year-old American returned to the circuit in March at Indian Wells, where she reached the fourth round, after undergoing left wrist surgery last fall.
   Keys, who climbed to a career-high No. 7 last October, has lost in the second round in both of her Stanford appearances (2013 and 2015).
   Bank of the West tickets are available online or by phone at (866) WTA-TIXS (982-8497).

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