Serena Williams admits that it’s an ambitious—even “outrageous”—plan, but she’s aiming for an Australian Open comeback.
The tennis star is eight months pregnant and has not competed since disclosing in April that she was expecting—weeks after winning the 2017 Australian Open nearly two months into her term.
In a new interview with Vogue, Williams talked candidly about impending motherhood, stating flatly that having a baby will not end her prodigious career.
“It’s hard to figure out what the end of your tennis career should look like,” she told the magazine. “I used to think I’d want to retire when I have kids, but no. I’m definitely coming back. Walking out there and hearing the crowd, it may seem like nothing. But there’s no better feeling in the world.”
She said she could return to the court as early as January 2018 to defend her Australian Open title.
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“It’s the most outrageous plan,” she said. “I just want to put that out there. That’s, like, three months after I give birth. I’m not walking anything back, but I’m just saying it’s pretty intense.”
Besides the crowd’s adoration, Williams has another good reason to stage a comeback: money. On Monday, Forbes named her this year’s highest paid female athlete with earnings of $27 million between June 2016 and June 2017. She currently has more than a dozen endorsement partners, including Beats by Dre, Gatorade, J.P. Morgan Chase, Nike, Tempur-Pedic, and Intel. At the time of Williams’ pregnancy announcement, industry executives said the news would make her even more likable in the eyes of corporate sponsors and the wider public. Williams already has an impressive worldwide platform, which she has leveraged for causes such as equal pay for black women and corporate diversity.
Nevertheless, Williams cited competitiveness in plotting her return to professional play, telling Vogue that she’s eager to break Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles. Williams has 23.
“Obviously, if I have a chance to go out there and catch up with Margaret, I am not going to pass that up,” she said. “If anything, this pregnancy has given me a new power.”
The term “power” is one Williams has embraced only of late. She says she has a “love-hate relationship” with the idea of it. She initially disliked being called a “power” player since it seemed to downplay other aspects of her game.
“Not only me, but women in general sometimes feel that power is a bad word. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to feel differently about it. Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. So now on the court I want people to think that I’m powerful,” she says. “But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different.”