Serena Williams’ determination to play tennis after becoming a mother has opened the door for other athletes to do the same, says Martina Navratilova.
Williams won the Australian Open while she was eight weeks pregnant with her daughter, giving birth to her in September 2017. Within five months, she was playing again.
She reached the Wimbledon final in July of 2018, just falling short against Angelique Kerber.
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It was the first of four finals she reached after giving birth, and Navratilova, who is widely considered among the greatest tennis players of all time, has said that Williams has proved that they don’t have to shy away from returning to professional sport after giving birth.
According to Navratilova, this is a huge shift from the mindset that was dominant in the 70s and the 80s, back when she was competing.
“For women, it was either or, but now, Serena proved you can have both. There are plenty of other mothers on the tour who have done really well,” Navratilova told CNN en Español’s Elizabeth Pérez.
“The biggest reason we didn’t see it – there are a couple – the care wasn’t there, the money wasn’t there, and also women just chose to have babies and then they didn’t come back.
“But now I think Serena kind of paved the way for motherhood and to still be an athlete. I think you will see more and more women playing well into their 30s, maybe into their 40s.”

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Williams, while yet to confirm her official retirement, likely played her last match of professional tennis against Ajla Tomljanovic at the 2022 US Open. However, there are other tennis players who have continued to compete after giving birth.
“With the money that’s in tennis, people can take better care of themselves,” Navratilova said. “Most of all, with the knowledge that we have about how to take care of our bodies much better – that will prolong players’ careers.
“Maybe [players will] not play as much every year but play longer and better quality as well. The care is there, the mental health, all of that is being addressed now much better than it was in my day.”
Williams, who was ranked world No. 1 in singles by the WTA for 319 weeks, won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most by any player in the Open Era and the second-most of all time, only one behind Margaret Court.
Navratilova said that Williams’ retirement will certainly be felt in the tennis world: “the electricity that she brought to the stadium was amazing.”
“We cannot replace a Roger Federer or a Serena Williams. But we can bring in new faces that will make us feel better about ourselves and keep us entertained, hopefully for decades to come.”
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