Victoria Azarenka will dedicate her US Open doubles crown to son Leo if the former world No.1 can crown her comeback to big-time tennis with victory in Sunday’s final with Ashleigh Barty.
While Barty is bidding to become the first woman to capture back-to-back doubles titles in New York in more than a decade, success over her fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens would be no less significant for Azarenka.
A two-times singles runner-up to Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows, as well as a dual Australian Open champion, Azarenka placed her career on hold to secure shared custody of Leo after a bitter legal battle played out in the Californian courts.
The two-year-old is with Azarenka as one of the tour’s most popular players strives to become tennis’s latest grand slam-winning super-mum.
“I always want to do well for my son and I hope he’s going to watch and see. He he did watch our quarter-finals match in the nursery here,” Azarenka said.
“He doesn’t understand exactly what I do, which is cool, but we’ll see. Sunday is in two days and we’ll do my best.”
Seventh on the all-time women’s prize money list – behind only Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova – with on-court earnings of $US30,104,670, ($A44.05m) Azarenka’s place in the Hall of Fame is already secure.
But the 30-year-old still yearns to fill a glaring omission on her glittering career CV.
“I haven’t had a title in doubles yet, a grand slam title, so it’s very cool for me and an amazing opportunity,” Azarenka said.
This whole two weeks I’ve been having a lot of fun on the court and I feel like every match we’re getting better and better.
“You can’t ever underestimate being in a grand slam final. I think as a tennis player, that’s what you dream of.
“If it’s singles, of course it’s always a priority, but being a doubles partner is always extra special so I feel very lucky to do that.”
Barty won the title last year with Coco Vandeweghe, but linked with Azarenka in 2019 due to the American’s battle with an ankle injury.
Back-to-back doubles triumphs to emulate Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy in 2006-07 would cap a stellar grand slam season for Barty, in which the 23-year-old won the French Open and bettered or equalled career bests at all other three.
It would also be the perfect celebration of her impending return on Monday to the top of the world singles rankings.
“I feel like I’m in a great place off the court and enjoying myself on the court.” Barty said.