Serena Williams, after winning record 23rd Grand Slam, reveals she is expecting first child

Serena Williams is expecting her first child in the autumn after her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian

serena williams
World number one Serena Williams Photo: Marianne Bevis

Serena Williams left the tennis world in a state of confusion last night after posting a selfie subtitled “20 weeks”, only to remove her Snapchat announcement soon after.

But the news was out, and her spokeswoman, Kelly Bush Novak, soon afterwards confirmed to Associated Press and Reuters that Williams is indeed expecting a baby in the autumn.

The tennis superstar, who will return to No1 next week, will thus miss the rest of the 2017 season, though the announcement added that Williams aims to return to action in 2018, the year in which she turns 37.

Williams was engaged to Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, at the end of last year and, if she is already 20 weeks pregnant, was expecting during her record-breaking run at the Australian Open, where she won her 23rd Major title without dropping a set.

That seventh Australian title came in her 20th year on the professional tour and more than 18 years after her first Major, which she won as a teenager at the US Open in 1999. However, she has not played since Melbourne, citing a knee injury, and will now concede big points through the entire calendar: Last year, she reached the final of the French Open, won Wimbledon and made the semis of the US Open last year.

By winning her 23rd Major in January, Williams overtook Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22, but the American remains one Major short of the all-time record 24 held by Margaret Court.

The great Australian player herself took time away from the pro tour when she married, and again after she had her first child, on both occasions coming back to win multiple Major titles. Court took another year’s sabbatical for the birth of her second child and returned to reach two quarters and a semi at Grand Slam level. She retired permanently in 1977, age 35—Williams’s current age—but played her last Major singles draw at 33.

The beginning of Williams’ maternity leave coincides with the imminent return of two other big names on the tennis stage.

Maria Sharapova, who incidentally turned 30 on the day that the Williams’ news broke, has serving a doping suspension since the Australian Open last year, but is due to return next week.

Victoria Azarenka announced her pregnancy a year ago, after winning the “Sunshine Double” in Indian Wells and Miami, and gave birth to a son last December. She has announced that she will return to the tour this summer.

And there are precedents aside from Azarenka and Court for a tennis career after motherhood. Kim Clijsters, who is still only 33, announced her retirement in 2007, but returned two years later after the birth of her daughter to win the US Open. She won it again the next year, followed by the Australian Open title, making her the first mother to win a Major since Evonne Cawley in 1980. But Clijsters retired permanently in 2012, age just 29.

Williams, though, has set ‘oldest ever’ milestones for years. She is the oldest ever women’s No1 and the oldest to win a Major in the Open era.

What’s more, Williams has been forced to take extended breaks from the tour before, most notably after winning Wimbledon in 2010. She sustained a serious foot injury, then a life-threatening pulmonary embolism the following spring, but returned to play Wimbledon, where she made the fourth round, and reached the US Open final a couple of months later. She has subsequently gone on to win 10 more Majors.

If would, then, be no surprise if Williams opted into the tour again in a year’s time, nor a surprise if she went on to win that record-equalling No24. Records? They are made to be broken.

Roy Keane
Roy Keane names three players he’d keep at Man United
Gossip
Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool FC prepare £33.4m offer for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips - report
Gossip
Fabrizio Romano
Fabrizio Romano provides update on Chelsea FC search for January signing
Gossip
Mikel Arteta
Juventus want Arsenal to include Thomas Partey in Arthur Melo deal - report
Gossip
Fabrizio Romano
Fabrizio Romano gives update on Arsenal link to Juventus midfielder Arthur Melo
Roy Keane
Roy Keane names three players he’d keep at Man United
Gossip
Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool FC prepare £33.4m offer for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips - report
Gossip
Fabrizio Romano
Fabrizio Romano provides update on Chelsea FC search for January signing
Gossip
Mikel Arteta
Juventus want Arsenal to include Thomas Partey in Arthur Melo deal - report
Gossip
Fabrizio Romano
Fabrizio Romano gives update on Arsenal link to Juventus midfielder Arthur Melo
Slideshow
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature