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Azarenka given wildcard for Australian Open

Reuters

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Twice champion Victoria Azarenka has been given a wildcard for next month's Australian Open, organizers said on Wednesday.

Azarenka, who won the Melbourne Park title in 2012 and 2013, returned to the WTA Tour in June after having a baby, but has been involved in a custody battle that has prevented her from playing since Wimbledon.

She withdrew from the U.S. Open and the Fed Cup final, which Belarus lost to the United States. She is currently ranked 210 in the world.

"Vika's current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can," Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.

"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 January."

Azarenka said she was thankful for the opportunity to return to Melbourne Park and hoped it would kick-start the year for her.

"I'm so excited about coming back to Melbourne for the Australian Open, its my favorite tournament," she said.

"I've won there twice and always feel so comfortable on court and the city is great.

"Its been a tough year and being able to come back to the AO will be a really positive way to start 2018."

The tournament runs from Jan 15-28.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Toby Davis)