For the fourth time this year, Victoria Azarenka will miss a tennis tournament because of her ongoing custody battle over her infant son. Having already missed the U.S. Open and two smaller tournaments in Stanford, Calif., and Mason, Ohio, the 28-year-old Belarusian star, who resides in California, revealed Tuesday she will miss a pivotal showdown between Belarus and the United States at the Fed Cup final this weekend.
“It is heartbreaking for me to not have a chance to play and help Belarus in the final, but unfortunately, my current custody situation is keeping me in California,” the former world No. 1 said in a note posted to Twitter on Tuesday. “Even though I will not be in Minsk for the final, my heart is always with my country and my team and I cheer for them from afar.”
Azarenka separated from Billy McKeague in July, just months after the two welcomed their son, Leo, in December. Now locked up in a lengthy custody battle in the California court system, neither parent has permission to leave the state with the child, which is a relatively standard arrangement in the state. Without a resolution, however, the arrangement has led Azarenka to make some tough choices.
“No parent should have to decide between their child or their career,” Azarenka said in a statement in August after announcing she would miss the U.S. Open.
At the time, Azarenka said she was “optimistic” that she and McKeague would resolve the matter within days. That, of course, did not happen. However, in her note on Tuesday, she remained somewhat sunny in her prognosis.
“I am already looking forward to 2018 and playing before my fans very soon,” she said. “As always, I want to send you my gratitude for the support you give me every single day with your notes and messages. I will be back stronger than ever!”
Currently ranked 208th in the world due to her ongoing absences due both to maternity leave and now her custody battle, Azarenka previously won two Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013. Between 2011 and 2013, Azarenka also made it to several Grand Slam semifinal and final matches.
Azarenka last played at Wimbledon in July, where she lost in the Round of 16 to current world No. 2 Simona Halep of Romania.