Former world number one Victoria Azarenka will return to the Australian Open next month as a wildcard in her quest for a third title. Azarenka – a two-time champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013 – was granted a spot in the 2018 women's singles draw by organisers on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old Belarussian, who missed this year's Australian Open after giving birth in December 2016, has not featured on the WTA Tour since Wimbledon in July due to an ongoing custody battle over her son.
Azarenka – with only six appearances this season and four wins – sat out the US Open and missed the Fed Cup final amid the childcare issue.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: "Vika's current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can. "As a two-time Australian Open champion we've awarded her a wildcard and look forward to seeing her back on the court in Melbourne in January."
Azarenka added: "I'm so excited about coming back to Melbourne for the Australian Open, it's my favourite tournament. "I've won there twice and always feel so comfortable on the court and the city is great. It's been a tough year and being able to come back to the AO will be a really positive way to start 2018. I'd like to thank Craig and his team for their understanding and support and can't wait to see all my Aussie fans again."