Monte-Carlo Day Three: Serena announces pregnancy, will Maria return to No. 1?

Great news for Serena and her fiancé, but horrible news for the WTA. The women’s circuit is already suffering from an identity crisis and lacking great champions. Only Maria Sharapova might be able to save a sinking ship.

Serena Williams (zimbio.com)

MONTE-CARLO – Rafael Nadal is certainly not used to losing any sets in the early rounds of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, a tournament that he has won nine times. On Wednesday Rafa was surprisingly tested in his opening round against Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, before prevailing with a 6-0,5-7,6-3 win. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka also had to overcome tricky opening rounds with hard-fought victories over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.

Nevertheless the news of the day on Wednesday came from overseas. And what a news it was. Serena Williams announced that she is pregnant by posting an announcement on Snapchat with a shocking selfie in which she poses sideways before a mirror, wearing a yellow swimsuit with cutouts. “20 weeks,” was the caption. She has since deleted the post and it’s unclear what, if any, significance there is to that. However, her publicist later confirmed that the tennis superstar is indeed pregnant and expecting her first baby this fall.

“I’m happy to confirm Serena is expecting a baby this Fall,” her publicist told the WTA.

Serena had recently withdrawn from tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami. She had also decided not to enter the upcoming clay court events in Madrid and Rome. So it was clear that something was bubbling under the surface. Earlier this week her coach and former boyfriend Patrick Mouratoglou told Eric Saillot of Radio Montecarlo France that “Serena is training to return in Rome and Paris.” Was he bluffing or did he simply not know? It would be interesting to actually understand why Serena suddenly decided to delete her pregnancy announcement from her Snapchat profile. It is also not clear when the baby was exactly conceived. The date is apparently almost coinciding with the announcement of her marriage to Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. If we do the math concerning the twenty weeks that were confirmed by Serena’s Snapchat post, we can safely say that Williams was a couple of months pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January earlier this year. She played the final against her sister Venus on January 29. One year and three days before that all-Williams final in Melbourne, Maria Sharapova could have never imagined that January 26, 2016 would have been her last day of professional tennis in the following 15 months.  The Russian was sidelined for the rest of the 2016 season after testing positive for Meldonium.

Has Serena played the last tournament of her legendary career in Melbourne? Will she ever come back to big time tennis? At this point it would be very surprising if she managed to come back. She will turn 36 in September and it will be extremely difficult for her to get back into shape and compete on the pro tour again. Vika Azarenka – who gave birth to a baby boy in December last year – will attempt a comeback this summer, but she is not 36 years old. Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Kim Clijsters both came back to the tour after pregnancy and managed to win Grand Slam tournaments in the second part of their careers, but they were in their late twenties.

Serena is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time along with Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Margaret Smith-Court. She is definitely the greatest black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis, following in the footsteps of Althea Gibson who in 1956 became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title.

It will be absolutely fascinating to see how Maria Sharapova will perform in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. Serena is now officially on maternity leave, Kerber is a very unconvincing world No. 1, Pliskova and Muguruza are still quite inconsistent, Cibulkova is certainly not a phenom, Halep is always injured and Radwanska seems incapable of rising to the occasion. If Maria Sharapova was at 90% of her potential during her comeback, she could regain the No. 1 ranking. At the moment she is ironically without a ranking.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

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