Pregnant Serena eyes Australian Open comeback

LOS ANGELES • Serena Williams, feeling "new power" from her pregnancy, is already preparing for an Australian Open title defence in January.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vogue magazine - touching on motherhood, body image and race - the tennis star said she had set herself a goal of playing in Melbourne.

"It's the most outrageous plan," said the 36-year-old, who is expecting her first child next month. "I just want to put that out there. That's, like, three months after I give birth. I'm not walking anything back, but I'm just saying it's pretty intense."

Williams would not be the first tennis star to make a successful return after pregnancy.

Kim Clijsters retired abruptly at 23, having won the 2005 US Open, but the Belgian was even better after a 28-month lay-off that included the birth of her daughter, winning once more at Flushing Meadows as an unseeded wild card in only her third tournament back.

Williams said that, during her pregnancy lay-off, she had kept a close eye on the tennis world, including her sister Venus's run to the Wimbledon final.

And she has her eye on matching Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. She won her 23rd at the Australian Open last January.

"Obviously, if I have a chance to go out there and catch up with Margaret, I am not going to pass that up," the American said. "If anything, this pregnancy has given me a new power."

POWER IS NOT A BAD WORD

Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. On the court, I want people to think that I'm powerful.

SERENA WILLIAMS, on how she plays her tennis matches these days despite criticism of her playing style.

She acknowledges that winning will be a tough task after nearly a year away from the professional circuit.

"In this game, you can go dark fast," she said. "If I lose, and I lose again, it's like, she's done. Especially since I'm not 20 years old. I'll tell you this much: I won't win less. Either I win, or I don't play."

Williams has been the target of criticism about the way she plays the game throughout her career, but she insisted that it is not something that bothers her.

"Not only me, but women in general sometimes feel that power is a bad word," she said. "Power is beauty. Strength is beauty. On the court, I want people to think that I'm powerful. But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different."

Williams also said that the way she is perceived by some tennis fans is shaped by her race.

"I feel like people think I'm mean," she said. "Why is that? Because I'm black and so I look mean? That's the society we live in. That's life."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'Pregnant Serena eyes Australian Open comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe