Tennis great Martina Navratilova thinks more women will continue to play professional tennis after having children – thanks in large part to Serena Williams.
When she retired from tennis last month, the 41-year-old Williams left behind a legacy that stretches far beyond her 23 Grand Slam titles, the last of which she won at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with her daughter Olympia.
She made her comeback the following year and made four Grand Slam finals – eschewing the notion that motherhood and a successful tennis career cannot go hand in hand.
According to Navratilova, Williams inspired a different mindset than when she dominated the sport in the 1970s and 80s.
“For the women it was one or the other, but now Serena has proven you can have both. There are a lot of other mothers on the tour who have done really well,” the former world number 1 to Elizabeth Pérez of CNN en Español.
“The main reason we haven’t seen it – there are a few – the care wasn’t there, the money wasn’t there, and also the women just chose to have babies and then they didn’t come back.
“But now I think Serena has kind of paved the way for motherhood and staying an athlete. I think you’ll see more and more women playing well in their 30s, maybe 40s.
Williams isn’t the only one paving the way for mothers hoping to pursue their careers in tennis.
Earlier this year, mother-of-two Tatjana Maria reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon 15 months after the birth of her second child, while Victoria Azarenka has consistently ranked in the world top 20 since the birth of his son Leo. in 2016.
Navratilova, who holds the all-time WTA Tour record with 167 titles, has had a long career, during which she has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam titles. Slam in mixed doubles.
After retiring from singles in 1994 at the age of 38, she continued to play doubles – and win titles – into her 40s.
She has remained involved in the sport as a coach, host and ambassador for the WTA Tour, emphasizing the importance of preventive health check-ups to combat specific illnesses such as breast cancer – which Navratilova was diagnosed with in 2010. .
After retiring, she observed an ever-changing sport, especially in terms of player longevity.
Navratilova thinks it will be more common for players to enjoy longer careers than in her day, following the trend set by Williams and Roger Federer, who recently played the last game of their career at the age of 41. .
“With tennis money, people can take better care of themselves,” she says. “Above all, with the knowledge we have on how to take better care of our bodies, it will prolong the careers of players.
“Maybe (the players will) not play as much every year, but also play longer and of better quality. The care is there, the mental health, all of that is now much better dealt with than in my time.
Navratilova adds that Williams’ retirement will leave a void in tennis – “the electricity she brought to the stadium was incredible”, she says – but believes the sport’s future is in “good hands” with the World No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
The Polish star won her third Grand Slam title – and second of the year – at the US Open in September, and at the age of 21 she looks set to only add to her tally of the Grand Slam – especially on his favorite clay surface.
“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 entertain us for decades to come. .”