Azarenka is struggling to find her best form (Picture: Getty Images)Priorities have changed for Victoria Azarenka.
Once world No. 1 and a two-time Grand Slam champion, the Belarusian has not won a professional title since giving birth in 2016.
A long and drawn out custody battle kept most WTA events out of reach – as she was unable to leave the USA – but while those issues have now been resolved, the 29-year-old is still struggling to find that breakthrough week.
It won’t be in Madrid. Azarenka was beaten by former US Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-4 2-6 6-2 to crash out of the tournament. Her serve was the main source of her frustration.
But what does the future hold for Belarus’ finest tennis export?
Azarenka is Belarus’ finest tennis export (Picture: Getty Images)While 10 years ago, a player approaching their 30s would typically be expected to retire imminently but the landscape has somewhat shifted with 37-year-olds Serena Williams and Roger Federer the two most prominent examples of those approaching their 40s still competing in top-level sport.
And despite admitting she thought she would have already finished her career by this age, Azarenka has no plans to call it a day soon.
‘It’s hard to say because I don’t feel I’m coming up to 30,’ she said. ‘I feel like really much better physically than when I was 20, 22.
‘And when I was 18, 19, when somebody asked me how long you want to play, I said I will never play past 27 and that’s not the case.
‘So, I don’t want to say that thing again, but in my mind, I feel that I have about five more years till my son has to go to school to give myself the best shot and give the best effort because tennis is my job, it’s not my life.
‘But I want to make sure that I have done everything I can in this time period and we’ll see what happens. Not sure I’ll be playing past 35, but you never know.’
Williams – who gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017 – has expressed a similar outlook. Tennis is, after all, secondary to family life.
Williams continues to compete on the WTA Tour (Picture: Getty Images)‘Well, because when you are young and you grow up and everything, your childhood has gone, it’s all about tennis, practice and fitness and tournaments and it is about winning and making it and everything,’ Azarenka adds. ‘So tennis becomes your life.
‘Everything in your team becomes about you, you know, you are an individual athlete. So when I became a mom that went to the second part.
‘No matter how much I love tennis, no matter how much my son is everything to me and it’s always going to be that way, so that never going to change.
‘And to me it felt like if I don’t try to say that I’ll still love tennis, like people might think, like oh, she doesn’t have the commitment anymore. And all this talk has been happening. So in a way it took a toll on me, oh, do I like to play tennis?
‘Do I have the same drive? Yes, I do. But it is not my priority anymore because to be, quite frank, if I had a choice do I go to play a tournament or I spend time with my son? There is no choice. It’s going to be my son.
‘But I have to work and I have to do things so I do that sacrifice and I take that job really seriously because when I do do my job, is the limited time I’m away from my son and I’m going to make sure I put 100% in doing the best I can otherwise I won’t be doing it.’