Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka tennis news updates

There’s a little bit of action in tennis news regarding Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

There’s not much news on the WTA front as fans of women’s tennis ‘suffer’ through one of the shortest off-seasons in professional sports. However, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are two former No. 1 ranked players that have some updates to report on.

Sharapova, who tested positive for a banned substance in early 2016, is still serving her suspension and she will be for quite some time still. The Russian cannot return to WTA play until late April of 2017. However, that doesn’t mean that she can’t contest non-ranking-point exhibition events. Sharapova will soon be back in action on the courts as she has departed for Puerto Rico to face Monica Puig in The Monica Puig Invitational on Thursday of this week.

Puig herself made international headlines in mid-2016 when she won the Olympic gold medal in Rio through a challenging draw that included Angelique Kerber in the championship match. Puig didn’t do much with the balance of her season, however at the age of 23 she appears to have a ton of upside to her current ranking of World No. 32. She and Sharapova have faced one another just one time with the Russian winning the match.

Azarenka, who is the late stages of her first pregnancy, recently spoke with Tennis Channel about her expected return to tennis. The update isn’t that revealing, however nothing detailed can really be expected from someone that is about to give birth.

“I don’t put any time frame on myself,” Azarenka stated. “I would love to make it as soon as possible, but give myself a reasonable time to fully recover and be ready. I’m not going to rush anything, and it’s hard to tell before the birth actually happens. So, we’ll see, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to play tennis again pretty soon” (qtd. in WTA article, December 9th).

Kim Clijsters, who recently had her third child, is the most-recent example of a mother-Grand Slam winner. When he won the 2009 US Open, the Belgian was about one-and-a-half years removed from giving birth to her first child. The list of WTA mothers that have won majors is not actually all that long. Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon 1980 after giving birth in 1977. Furthermore, another Australian player named Margaret Court won a major after giving birth.

Azarenka has comparable talent to these mother-Grand Slam champions. In truth, I don’t expect Azarenka to be playing close to her best until at least the 2017 summer season. Who knows, maybe her and Sharapova will lock up in the 2017 US Open final.

Shane Lambert