Serena Williams’ news of impending motherhood adds to the shocks that have shaped a drama-filled 12 months in tennis. We countdown the five biggest…
5. Roger Federer wins the Australian Open
This was a shock of the happiest kind. Entering Australian Open 2017 after a rare six-month absence, Roger Federer spoke candidly and often about the many unknowns accompanying his return. A quarterfinal run, said the superstar, would be a pleasing result. So the 35-year-old surprised even himself as he surged to an 18th Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, completing his most impressive victory yet as he outclassed Rafael Nadal in a five-set final. Starting the season at world No.16, his lowest ranking since May 2001, Federer has gone on to win Indian Wells and Miami to re-enter the world’s top four.
4. Victoria Azarenka becomes a mother
Two-time Australian Open champion and former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka seemed entirely focused on her professional life in the early months of 2016. After an injury-affected 2015, the 25-year-old claimed Brisbane, Indian Wells and Miami in 2016, where wins over Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams underlined her ability to dominate the women’s game. But after a lacklustre clay court season, Azarenka had some big personal news: she was due to become a mother. Few knew that the Belarusian even had a partner (later revealed as Billy McKeague) but you can be certain that son Leo, who was born in December, will attract plenty of interest when Vika returns to the tour in July.
3. Serena Williams announces her pregnancy
Jaws dropped throughout the world when news broke that Serena Williams, about to be reinstated at world No.1, will become a mother in the American autumn. The record-breaking champion only announced her engagement – which also seemed a bombshell at the time – to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in late December. It’s not just that we’ve become accustomed to a WTA Tour in which Serena dominates at big event after big event but if the reported timelines are true, the 35-year-old was two months pregnant when she claimed her 23rd Grand Slam title in Australia. Some say that Serena’s intention to return to tennis at age 36 in 2018 are a stretch – but we’ve learned to never be surprised by the most prolific and dramatic champion of her generation.
2. Petra Kvitova is attacked
Players typically cherish the rare time they can spend at home during the short off-season but that happiness turned to horror when a knife-wielding intruder attacked Petra Kvitova in her Prostejov apartment in December. The two-time Wimbledon champion suffered serious injuries in her dominant left hand and immediately underwent hours of intricate surgery. As fans and playing colleagues rallied to support one of the WTA’s most popular competitors, many feared that the physical and mental effects of the shocking attack would prove career ending. That Kvitova has since entered the upcoming French Open is happy reminder of the fighting spirit that delivered 19 career titles.
1. Maria Sharapova returns a positive drugs test
When five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova scheduled a “major announcement” in Los Angeles last year, nobody imagined the shocking news to come. After returning a positive test for meldonium, which had only recently been added to WADA’s banned substance list, the most marketable woman in sport was facing a suspension that could end her legendary career. Of course, Sharapova, who’d last competed against Serena Williams at the Australian Open, wasn’t the first player to return a positive drugs test but she was arguably the most high profile one. With her two-year ban subsequently reduced on appeal to 15 months, there’s naturally huge interest in how the superstar will fare when she returns in Stuttgart next week.
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