Victoria Azarenka, the former world No. 1 who returned to the tour earlier this year after giving birth to her son Leo last December, is embroiled in a custody battle with her son’s father, Billy McKeague, a golf pro she met in Hawaii, and it may force her to miss the U.S. Open that begins later this month.
In a letter posted on social media, Azarenka said, “the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the US Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California, which I’m not willing to do.”
The pair separated in July, and TMZ reported last week that McKeague filed for custody in Los Angeles where Azarenka lives when she isn’t training in her home country of Belarus. Because of that, she can’t take her son out of the state until the custody decision is settled. TMZ said Azarenka’s attorney “told the judge her client is more than willing to buy a plane ticket for McKeague and put him up in a hotel for the 2-week tournament, but the judge said no.” Here’s Azarenka’s full statement:
My incredible fans and friends, who have supported me throughout my career deserve to know why I may not be able to compete at the U.S Open this year.
The day my son Leo was born, back in December of last year, was by far the happiest day of my life. I now have a brand new appreciation for how new mothers - and fathers – juggle the many different responsibilities for their families. However, like most working mothers, despite my unconditional love for my son, I am faced with a difficult situation which may not allow me to return to work right away.
In Belarus back in March, with my family in tow, I started working toward the goal of returning to the tennis tour and competing at a high level by July 31st. I was able to return early, playing in Mallorca mid-June followed by Wimbledon.
Shortly after Wimbledon, Leo’s father and I separated and as we work to resolve some of the legal processes, the way things stand now is that the only way I can play in the US Open this year is if I leave Leo behind in California, which I’m not willing to do.
Balancing child care and a career is not easy for any parent, but it is a challenge I am willing to face and embrace. I want to support men and women everywhere who know it is ok to be a working mother - or father. No one should ever have to decide between a child and their career, we are strong enough to do both.
I am incredibly grateful for all of the support I have received from women and men around the world who recognize the importance of supporting working moms and our right to be with our children. I look forward to hopefully having positive developments soon so that this difficult situation can be resolved and I can get back to competing. No parent should have to decide between their child or their career.
I remain optimistic that in the coming days Leo’s father and I can put aside any differences and take steps in the right direction to more effectively work as a team and agree on an arrangement for all three of us to travel and for me to compete but, more importantly to ensure that Leo has a consistent presence from both of his parents.