Melbourne - Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria
Azarenka, who has been locked in a custody battle over her baby son, was on Wednesday handed a wildcard into January's Australian Open.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said every assistance would
be provided to the former Belarus world number one so she can compete at the Melbourne
event where she has achieved her greatest success.
"Vika's current situation is obviously very difficult
for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can," Tiley said.
"As a two-time Australian Open champion we've awarded
her a wildcard and look forward to seeing her back on court in Melbourne in
Azarenka returned from maternity leave in the middle of the
year but was forced to skip the US Open in August after a Los Angeles judge
presiding in a custody case over her son Leo ruled the child could not leave
California until the matter had been settled.
Azarenka, who has slipped down the rankings to be world
number 210, said she was looking forward to returning to the opening Grand Slam
of the year.
"I'm so excited about coming back to Melbourne for the
Australian Open, it's my favourite tournament," she said.
"I've won there twice and always feel so comfortable on
court and the city is great.
"It's been a tough year and being able to come back to
the Australian Open will be a really positive way to start 2018. I'd like to
thank Craig and his team for their understanding and support and can't wait to
see all my Aussie fans again."
The tournament runs from January 15-28.