Et’s still a pretty exclusive club run by Serena Williams. But in recent years the community of tennis mothers on the professional tour has gained a lot of interest. A record-breaking nine of its members competed at this year’s US Open. The Belgian Kim Clijsters on her highly regarded Grand Slam comeback was one of them, as was Tatjana Maria, a German. Three of them have now even made it to the quarter-finals. As the most prominent representative, of course, Williams, something like club president and model mom of the tennis industry. In addition, however, her next opponent Zwetana Pironkowa from Bulgaria and the Belarusian Wiktoria Asarenka.
“I’m so happy that there are so many mothers here,” said Williams, who made it into the last eight on Monday with a 6: 3, 6: 7 (6: 8), 6: 3 against the Greek Maria Sakkari has fought. “Mainly, of course, because I am one myself. I have a completely new respect for your performance. ”In New York, Williams makes repeated attempts at her 24th Grand Slam title, the first since the birth of their daughter Alexis Olympia. Since then, she has been in a major’s final four times and lost four times. She is still chasing the record of the Australian Margaret Court (24), who, along with Clijsters and her compatriot Evonne Goolagong, is one of only three mothers who have won a Grand Slam tournament so far.
“I was just tired”
Williams’ opponent in the quarter-final this Wednesday, Bulgarian Pironkowa, has meanwhile written the most spectacular success story of this year’s US Open to date. The 32-year-old had not competed in a tournament for three years before starting in New York. She became a mother, founded a company that makes feel-good clothing for women athletes, and had almost finished her tennis career. “I was on the road for more than ten years,” she says: “I was just tired.” She also wanted to fully enjoy the new experiences with her son Alexander.
But after a while, Pironkova, once a semi-finalist in Wimbledon and at least number 31 in the world rankings, felt the desire to compete again. “I wanted to see if I could still do it,” she explains. As she herself suspected, she also benefited from the mandatory Corona break, during which she was able to catch up on the training deficit. She also benefits from the fact that the WTA players’ association has taken some measures in recent years to make it easier for mothers to return to the professional tour. For example, they can now claim a “protected ranking”, similar to what happens after a serious injury.
At the start of her baby break in 2017, Pironkowa was ranked 123rd in the world. She can now use this value when registering for twelve tournaments, including a maximum of two Grand Slams. At the US Open, where many players from the top 100 canceled this year due to Corona, Pironkowa even surprisingly slipped directly into the main field. And then started an almost sensational triumphal march, in the course of which she threw the two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza from Spain and the number 18 Croatian Donna Vekić out of the tournament. “I have to admit, I didn’t expect that,” said Pironkova. “But I’ll take everything that comes with me.” Also her first US Open quarter-final against Serena Williams, a “legend of our sport”, as she raves.
Pironkowa’s success story
Pironkowa’s completely unexpected success story from New York is inextricably linked with her experiences as a mother. “Everything about it helped me,” she said after her 6: 4-, 6: 7- (5: 7), 6: 3-round of 16 victory over the French Alizé Cornet on Monday evening. “You become a different person. You are no longer just focused on yourself, your child comes first. Obviously that’s a good thing. ”She said she was better organized, mentally more resilient, and even benefited physically because she now had a much better sense of her own body. “I can’t even mention how many points this has had a positive impact on me.”
Wiktoria Asarenka, the third remaining tennis mom from New York, describes it similarly. The 31-year-old was already at the top of her sport, was number one in the world, and won two Grand Slam tournaments. When she found out in 2016 that she was pregnant, she initially cried, believing that this would mean the end of her career. Today she says: “My life only began when I became a mother.”
Immediately before the US Open, Asarenka won the “Cincinnati Masters” in New York, her first tournament success after the birth of her son. She has long been one of the favorites for the title at the Grand Slam tournament. On Monday she beat the Czech Karolína Muchová 5: 7, 6: 1, 6: 4 and is now playing in the round of the last eight against Elise Mertens from Belgium. Much more important to Asarenka than sporting success is the message behind it. “We’re not just mothers, we’re tennis players too. Women with dreams and goals and passions, “she says:” For me, these are all heroines. I hope we can continue with that and inspire other women to strive for what they want. ”A message that unofficial club president Serena Williams would surely endorse as well.