Hours after Serena Williams, the most dominant tennis player of all time, appeared to announce her pregnancy by sharing and then deleting a photo of herself in a bathing suit captioned “20 weeks,” her publicist confirmed that she is indeed expecting her first child.
“I’m happy to confirm Serena is expecting a baby this fall,” a spokesperson for the 35-year-old told the Guardian.
Now that we know for sure that she’s pregnant (congrats!) let’s properly appreciate a fact: Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open, her record-breaking 23rd major, without dropping a single set, while nine fucking weeks pregnant. She is the greatest of all time. (I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure Roger Federer, magical though he may be, has never won a grand slam while simultaneously growing a baby inside of him.)
Williams hasn’t played a competitive match since she beat her sister Venus to win the Australian Open. She pulled out of Indian Wells, Miami, and Madrid, citing knee trouble, and in early March, I speculated whether the lack of tournament play would hurt her chances in the French Open.
Now, her absence from competition makes more sense. While Williams could conceivably choose to continue playing tennis through her pregnancy (track athlete Alysia Montano continued training throughout her pregnancy and ran the 800-meter at the U.S. track and field championships while nearly eight months pregnant), Williams’ absence from the tour so far indicates she might not return to competition until after the birth of her child—if she even wants to come back at all.
If Williams does return though, there’s a blueprint for her post-baby comeback. The great Kim Clijsters stepped away from tennis in 2005 for more than two years, and during her hiatus she gave birth to her daughter. When Clijsters came back, she won three more grand slams and regained the World No. 1 ranking. Williams’s erstwhile rival Victoria Azarenka also announced a week ago that she would return to the tour this summer, seven months after giving birth to her first child.
Williams, who got engaged to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian late last year, has nothing left to prove on the court, and considering she’s older than both Clijsters and Azarenka were when they took their respective breaks from tennis, no one would blame her if she chose to leave tennis for good. But if she does want to come back, she’s more than capable of it. And I, along with all other tennis fans who marvel at her dominance and appreciate her charisma, would love to see her back on the court.