Johanna Konta's Wimbledon hopes boosted by Serena's maternity break

April 20, 2017

The rapid rise up the rankings of Johanna Konta in the past couple of years have taken her to seventh in the WTA rankings, with high hopes that she will do for the British women's game what Andy Murray has for the men by winning Grand Slam titles.

Her hopes of doing so soon have been given an unexpected boost by the revelation that Serena Williams will be otherwise occupied. The world number two, who broke Steffi Graf's Open Era record of Grand Slams by taking her 23rd major in the Australian Open in February, has revealed she is 20 weeks pregnant.

News emerged when she tweeted a picture of herself in a leotard with the first hint of a baby bump and the words: "20 weeks". This was soon deleted but by then the word was out. Her publicist soon confirmed that the baby is due in the autumn.

Organisers of the US Open, while digesting the news that the champion will not be there to defend her title, were swift to publish congratulations, saying: "Serena Williams will have a new pride and joy to hug and call her own soon! Congratulations on the exciting baby announcement!"

This means, astonishingly, she was already expecting when she defeated her sister Venus to take the big prize in Melbourne. But while being 35 has not stopped her being the best player, it seems she is happy now to move into a major new phase of her life with fiance Alex Ohanian.

However, nobody should imagine that is the end of Serena's career. While she will miss the other three Grand Slams this year, she is expecting to be back in 2018, using her protected WTA ranking to guarantee a place in the big events.

Moreover, there are plenty of examples of successful tennis mums she can follow, including former Wimbledon winner Yvonne Goolagong-Cawley and 2009 US open winner Kim Clijsters, who won the tournament 18 months after her daughter was born. Viktoria Azarenka had a baby in December and is planning to be back on tour in July.

In the meantime, however, this means the field has suddenly been left clear for the rest of the pack to chase Grand Slam glory. Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Championships, Wimbledon might be disappointed that Serena won't be there, but it undoubtedly bolsters the chances for Konta, while five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams will hope to keep the trophy in the family.

The rest of the field will similarly take note of their opportunities, among them last year's Wimbledon finalist Angelique Kerber, who has been back on top of the rankings in recent weeks after losing top spot to Serena in the Australian Open. Other hopefuls will include 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza and maybe even Petra Kvitova, who is about to begin her comeback after surgery on a hand injury sustained in a burglary on her home.

It all means there will still be some superb ladies' tennis to enjoy at Wimbledon this summer, with high hopes of a Konta triumph.

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