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Winning return for Victoria Azarenka at the BNP Paribas Open

The former world number one beat Heather Watson 6-4, 6-2 in the first round

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Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, was returning to the tour for the first time since a fourth round appearance at Wimbledon last year. A custody battle over her son, Leo, born in December 2016, kept her off the court.

The custody battle meant that Azarenka has been unable to travel due to a court ruling that her son should remain in California until the case is settled.

And on Friday, Azarenka made a winning return to the WTA Tour with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Briton, Heather Watson to move into the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in California.

Although, it was a far from flawless performance from the 28-year-old, who was visibly rusty given her eight-month absence.

“It was definitely tough, especially when you have been out of the game for a while,” Azarenka said after the match.

“There were some moments that I lost my concentration from not playing so long, but it’s a pretty good start.

“I had my heart out playing here and that’s the most important (thing).”

On her return, she said: “It truly means the world to me to be here, to play and to enjoy myself.

“Walking out on court I felt so much love and I almost had tears in my eyes. It’s such an amazing feeling to be back playing and having fun – I forgot what it’s like playing in different emotions.”

Next up for the two-time BNP Paribas Open champion is US Open champion, Sloane Stephens in the second round on Saturday.

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