It was thought to be a retirement phase as soon as women athletes got pregnant and gave birth but that narrative is being challenged at the 2020 US Open where three mothers reached the quarter-finals and two – six-time US Open champion, Serena Williams, and two-time finalist, Victoria Azarenka will face off in Thursday’s second semi-final.
Williams, 38, gave birth to a daughter in September 2017 while Azarenka, 31, gave birth to a son in December 2016. Both returned to tennis afterwards and have charted a progressive course since their respective returns.
They have met 22 times since they first met 12 years ago  in a round of 32 clash at the Australian Open – a match Williams won 6-3 6-4. While Williams can be defined as the greatest woman tennis player of all times with 23 Grand Slam titles under her belt, Azarenka has won two Grand Slam titles but more instructively, she lost in successive US Open finals, 2012 and 2013, to her Thursday opponent.
Azarenka was majestic in dismissing Elise Mertens, 6-1, 6-0, while Williams had to dig deep to pass the stiff test posed by the third mother, Tsvetana Pironkova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and qualify for her 14th US Open semi-final.
After the draining win over Pironkova, Williams said in the on-court interview, “I am happy to just be here standing and talking with you. I was like one point from not being here. I just kept fighting and never gave up. You got to keep going.
“This just shows how tough moms are,” added Olympia’s mum. “You give birth to a child you can do just about anything.”
Azarenka, after her semi-final win, said she was looking forward to the challenge against Williams, whom she described as a ‘friend’. “Can it get any better,” she asked in the on-court interview.
“For me, it can’t. I’m so excited about this. It’s an amazing opportunity to play against a champion, someone who I respect a lot, who is my friend. I’m just so excited for this opportunity and I hope people are excited for this match.”
The objective for both mothers is to claim the 2020 title; where Williams is chasing a 24th title to tie the record of Margaret Court, while Azarenka is chasing a first US Open title. Whatever happens, there will be a mother in the final on Saturday to face either of Naomi Osaka, 22, or Jennifer Brady, who is 25.
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