Tennis great Martina Navratilova believes more women will continue to play professional tennis after having children, thanks to Serena Williams.
When she retired from tennis last month, the 41-year-old Williams left a legacy that goes beyond her 23 grand slam titles, the last of which she won at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with her daughter Olympia.
She returned the following year and participated in four grand slam finals, proving that motherhood and a successful tennis career cannot go hand in hand.
According to Navratilova, Williams has encouraged a different way of thinking compared to when the sport was dominant in the 1970s and 80s.
“For women it was either-or, but now Serena proved you can have both. There are many other mothers who have done very well on the tour,” said world No. 1 Elizabeth Pérez of CNN en Español.
“The biggest reason we didn’t see it – there is a couple – there was no care, there was no money, and the women chose to have children and then they didn’t come back.
“But now I think Serena paved the way for motherhood and still being an athlete. I think you’ll see more and more women in their 30s, maybe 40s.’
Williams isn’t alone in making way for mothers hoping to pursue a tennis career.
Earlier this year, mother-of-two Tatjana Maria reached her first grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon 15 months after giving birth to her second child, while Victoria Azarenka has been ranked in the world’s top 20 since the birth of her son Leo. in 2016
Navratilova, who holds a record 167 WTA Tour titles, had a long career that saw her win 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam doubles titles.
After retiring from singles in 1994 at the age of 38, he continued to play doubles – and win titles – at the age of 40.
She has continued to be involved in the sport as a coach, broadcaster and ambassador for the WTA Tour, highlighting the importance of preventive screenings to combat specific diseases such as breast cancer, which Navratilova was diagnosed with in 2010.
Since his retirement, he has seen a sport that is constantly evolving, especially in terms of player longevity.
Navratilova believes it will be more common for players to have longer careers than in her day, following the trend set by Williams and Roger Federer, who recently played their final match at age 41.
“With the money in tennis, people can take better care of themselves,” he says. “Most of all, knowing how to take care of our body much better, this will prolong the career of the players.
“Perhaps (the players) will not play as much every year, but they will play longer and with better quality. The care is there, the mental health, all of that is being addressed much better now than in my time.’
Navratilova added that Williams’ retirement will leave a void in tennis – “the electricity she brought to the stadium was amazing”, she says – but believes the future of the sport is “in good hands” with world No. 1 Iga Swiat.
The Polish star won her third Grand Slam title – and second of the year – at the US Open in September, and at 21, she looks set to only add to her grand slam tally, especially on her clay court.
“We can’t replace a Roger Federer or a Serena Williams,” says Navratilova, “but we can bring in new faces that will make us feel better about ourselves and hopefully keep us entertained for decades to come.”