Belfast Telegraph

Wimbledon: Mum's the word as Watson faces clash with Azarenka


By Tom Allnutt

Victoria Azarenka has made a remarkable return since having a baby but will have a rival as the most famous mum in her Wimbledon duel with Heather Watson today.

The pair are surprise runners to the third round given Azarenka gave birth to her son Leo less than seven months ago while Watson has been woefully out of sorts for most of the year.

Watson, however, has enjoyed an unexpected resurgence and now only Azarenka stands in the way of the Briton reaching her first Grand Slam fourth round.

Watching on will be Watson's mother Michelle, who hails from Papua New Guinea and is proving a hit herself in SW19.

"My mum's famous here. Everybody knows her," Watson said. "I walk around and I have like 10 people stop me, saying, 'Oh, I saw your mum. I chatted to her.' I'm thinking, 'Who hasn't she chatted to?' Yeah, she's great. I wouldn't be here without her."

Azarenka has been inspired by motherhood too after she gave birth in December before making a return at the Mallorca Open last month. She says it has given her a fresh perspective.

"I'm much older than I was," Azarenka said. "I feel like there is always going to be another Wimbledon. I'm enjoying myself coming here every day, enjoying the journey and being able to bring my son here. Hopefully in 20 years he'll be playing."

If her stamina holds, Azarenka has the weapons to win Wimbledon, having twice triumphed at the Australian Open and reached the semi-finals here in 2011 and 2012. Watson described her as "an incredible player and person" but will have to halt a four-match losing streak against the Belarusian.

She can take confidence, however, from three top-20 scalps in the last fortnight alone, not to mention her giant-killing effort which fell just short at Wimbledon in 2015, when Watson lost a three-setter to Serena Williams.

"I don't think Heather is defined by that match," Azarenka said. "She's a great player. It looks like she feels comfortable coming into this match. To me, it's just another match."

Belfast Telegraph


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