The Pull Of Motherhood Versus Serena's Need To Compete

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What comes next for the greatest tennis player ever?

Serena Williams is having one hell of a six months, both on and off the court.  In her personal life, she’s gotten engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and announced via SnapChat that she is pregnant. Recently, we saw her at the Met Gala in a gorgeous emerald green gown, growing belly showing and looking like Mother Earth herself.

The best tennis player in the world, (no, not best “female” tennis player – get it right) is about to get married and become a mother in late summer or early fall.

This made me think about what comes next for Serena. As a fan, I’d love to see her return to the court and continue to dominate so effortlessly.

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“Serena beats Sharapova in straight sets again just 2 months after giving birth” is a headline I would love to read. But that thought belies my selfishness. Clearly, she owes her fans nothing. She has dominated in a sport that people of color were told we weren’t even supposed to play. She is ranked #1 in the world. Again. At 35, she is the only player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era.

In fact, she won her most recent Grand Slam while approximately eight weeks pregnant. She is the only tennis player to have won 10 Grand Slam singles titles in two separate decades. She holds the most major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. Serena literally has nothing left to prove.

At her core, she is a fierce competitor. She has said for years that her only true competition is her sister, Venus. One wonders whether that focus has changed now that she is expecting her first child. I would imagine that the need to compete would be the only thing that could get Serena back on the court now.

There’s also the question of what it means for her to take such a significant amount of time off, a feeling that must be foreign to her since she has remained in top physical form since turning professional 22 years ago.

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This leads to the broader discussion of the decisions that woman athletes must make in this regard. If a male athlete decides that he and his partner are going to have a child, he can continue training, continue performing at the same level. His body doesn’t change. He doesn’t have to think about his diet, his workout routine, new uniforms that will fit. He also doesn’t need any recovery time after the child is born. These are all things that women athletes must consider: from “Is it the right time?” to “Will I return to the sport afterward?” and everything in between.

As a mother, I would be happy to see Serena hang up her racket and focus on her new family. She should have the opportunity to experience all the baby’s “firsts” in real time, not via Facetime or Skype. With all the changes that are happening in less than a year’s time, it makes sense that Serena may choose to live like us mere mortals, and focus on being a new wife and mom.

We will miss her play, but can celebrate all that she has given her fans and the sport. Ultimately, the choice will be hers. As someone who wants the best for her, I applaud whatever she decides.

While her child hasn’t been born yet, we at The Shadow League wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to Serena Williams, only to be surpassed next year as she is able to hold her child in her arms.

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April Reign
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