No one knows more than Kim Clijsters about combining motherhood and elite tennis, about “the struggle to find a balance”, the joys and also the occasional guilt.
And the Belgian, who won three of her four Grand Slam singles titles after starting a family, has spoken of her admiration for how new mother Serena Williams has been playing at such a high level at only the fourth tournament since her return.
“Everyone has their own situation and you have to find what works for you. You try to find your balance. Serena’s playing well and she’s getting better with every match and that’s the only thing you can do,” Clijsters said of Williams, who is now just two matches away from winning an eighth Wimbledon title, which would also put her level with Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors.
“I’m not surprised by the level of her tennis,” she added. “If you put your mind to something, and work hard and you’re dedicated, you can do it. She’s still the same tennis player that she was before she became a mother, so that’s not going to change. As long as the dedication is there, anything is possible with Serena.”
At the weekend, Williams disclosed she had cried after missing daughter Olympia’s first steps because she had been training.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a tennis player or a working mum doing another more normal job, the balance can be a struggle. For some women it might be easier, but for some women it’s a struggle,” said Clijsters, who is playing in the legends event at the All England Club.
“For me, it was tough at times and I sometimes felt guilty, and you have to try to find the balance and maybe look at your schedule. That’s something that a lot of women are having to deal with. As an athlete, you just have to make sure that physically, mentally and emotionally, you’re ready.
“You have to be at your best on the court if you want to win your matches, and that can sometimes be an added pressure. It’s a struggle balancing motherhood and a professional career.”
Li Na, a former Roland-Garros champion, also expressed her admiration for the way Williams is handling the demands on her time. “It’s special, what Serena is doing after having her baby. I think she has a very big chance of picking up the trophy at the end. I’m surprised that she is playing so well – it’s very tough for a woman to come back after having a baby,” said the Chinese, who is also appearing in the legends competition.
“It’s very difficult to combine looking after a child and playing professional tennis. I think she’s doing that well. Your body changes a lot when you have a baby. I think you have at least four or five months when you can’t sleep through the whole night. The baby is crying and wants something, and the woman always wakes up in the next second. That’s very tough.”
Source: Mark Hodgkinson|| Wimbledon