When Serena Williams steps out on Centre Court to play Evgeniya Rodina in Wimbledon’s fourth round on Monday, it will be a rare meeting of Mom vs. Mom.
Such matchups could happen with greater frequency as parenthood becomes increasingly popular on the women’s tennis tour.
There were a half-dozen mothers in the singles main draw at the All England Club this year: 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams; another former No. 1 and two-time major champ, Victoria Azarenka; Rodina, Kateryna Bondarenko, Tatjana Maria and Vera Zvonareva.
Two more moms entered the doubles event, Mandy Minella and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. A ninth, Patty Schnyder, lost during qualifying for singles.
“At different points, we’ve had one or two mothers at a time. And then it’s grown to three or four mothers. And now we’ve seen that we have more, at present, than we’ve had in the past. There was Margaret Court. Evonne Goolagong. (Kim) Clijsters,” said Kathleen Stroia, WTA Senior VP for sport sciences and medicine, naming mothers who won Grand Slam titles.
Williams is competing in her second Grand Slam tournament since having a daughter, Olympia, last September. Motherhood is an important part of who she is now.
The 36-year-old American has spoken openly about a health scare during childbirth. About gaining weight while breast-feeding. About the joys of bringing her child onsite to a tournament for the first time.
About the difficulty of dividing her time between family and forehands. About the precedent the All England Club set by seeding her 25th, based on past success that includes seven Wimbledon titles, even though she was ranked outside the top 150 after missing more than a full season, first while pregnant, then after giving birth.
“It will be really nice for these women to take a year off, and have the most amazing thing in the world,” Williams said, “then come back to their job and not have to start from the bottom, scrape, scrape, scrape.”
Williams features her daughter often on her Snapchat. More recently, a video of Olympia showed her playing in her mother’s makeup bag, hairbrushes and clothes.
Olympia is Serena’s first child with Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian.
She tweeted over the weekend about missing the chance to see Olympia take her first steps, because it happened during a training session.
Serena is now chasing a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam crown after returning from a year-long maternity break.