Martina Navratilova: Motherhood won’t mellow Serena Williams

All eyes will be on Serena Williams this week when she returns to competitive tennis, but Martina Navratilova warns that she will be as competitive as ever.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner was expected to make her comeback from maternity leave at the Australian Open, but she pulled out a week before the tournament was due to get underway as she felt she wasn’t ready to compete for the title.

Instead she will now make her return when defending Fed Cup champions the United States hosts the Netherlands in North Carolina.

Navratilova, though, sees no reason why Williams will just pick up where she left off last year when she won the Australian Open before going on maternity leave.

In her exclusive column, she wrote: “Motherhood won’t mellow Serena Williams. When she returns to competition, starting with the Fed Cup this week, I would imagine she’s going to be the same as she ever was – she will be just as competitive, just as strong, and she will still be going all out for every victory.

“If life is now very different for her away from the court, I’m not expecting a new Serena on the court, especially as she so badly wants the all-time record for the most Grand Slams and to return to WTA World No.1. She’s never been one to let anything or anyone stand in her way, and I don’t expect that to have changed when, with 23 majors, she’s just one short of Margaret Court’s record. Finding her competitive spirit again won’t be a problem when she returns from maternity leave.”

However, Navratilova admits it could take a while for Williams to get going again after such a long layoff.

“It’s one thing to be away for a year when you’re 26, but quite another to do it when you’re 36,” she continued. “Everything just takes longer when you’re older – recovery, injury prevention, recovering from tough matches, getting your energy up, working on your body. So I would assume that it’s going to take her longer to get back into shape and feeling it on the court.

“But no one should make the mistake of underestimating Serena – after all, she won last year’s Australian Open while two months’ pregnant with her daughter. Serena is so solid and she’s got the big serve and the weapons in her game, so that gives her a lot of confidence. So it might not take her so long to get the feeling for the ball again.”