Victoria Azarenka has not contested a match on tour since Wimbledon 2017, a tournament that she made the fourth round in before falling to Simona Halep. However, the former World No. 1's name is expected to be in the 2017 WTA Stanford draw when it is released in the near future. That tournament, which will include Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova, will be played in California next week. Azarenka is also now expected in the WTA Cincinnati draw (Western & Southern Open) later in August, as that tournament's organizers announced that she has been awarded a wild card entry for the main draw.

Azarenka needs wild cards due to maternity leave

Due to her maternity leave, which affected most of 2016 and a large part of 2017, Azarenka dropped in the rankings. As of the July 24th rankings, she is the World No. 203. That ranking is the result of limited play that saw her make the second round in WTA Mallorca, along with her Wimbledon result. She promises to shoot up the rankings in leaps and bounds in the weeks ahead, however, the low ranking is the reason she needed a wild card to get into the upcoming Cincinnati draw.

According to the Western & Southern Open's official website "Victoria Azarenka...and Maria Sharapova...will be joined by American Sloane Stephens and 18-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in the field for the August 12-20 tournament at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio." Azarenka competed in the tournament four times in the past, efforts that included a title at the 2013 tournament where she beat Serena Williams in the final.

That outcome stands out as her only significant result at the venue.

The event will be key for Vika

The Cincinnati tournament carries a lot of ranking points, with 900 going to the champion. To understand the implications of earning 900 points on tour, that total would be enough to see a player ranked 69th in the current rankings even without any other results factoring in.

Depending on how Azarenka does between now and Cincinnati, she could feasibly have a spot in the top 40 on her racket when Cincinnati rolls around.

Prior to her maternity leave, Victoria Azarenka appeared to be in tip-top form. She won both Indian Wells and Miami in 2016 and appeared to be heading toward the World No. 1 ranking ahead of her pregnancy announcement.

It will be interesting to see if she rediscovers her former form. With two Australian Open titles to her credit, she is a noted hard-courter among her contemporaries. With so many hard court events coming up on tour, she appears to be a very key player on tour right now.