Azarenka, Townsend and the return of Svitolina: The super mums still active on the WTA Tour
Angelique Kerber has just become a mother for the first time, which gives us an opportunity to take stock of all the mothers who are still battling it out at the highest level of world tennis
Victoria Azarenka: The boss
Victoria Azarenka became a mother in December 2016 to a baby boy named Leo. The Belarusian had only played two tournaments in 2017, only really returning to the tour for Indian Wells in 2018 because she fought a long legal war with her son’s father, Billy McKeague, to get custody of the child.
Having fallen outside the world’s top 200, Azarenka has managed to climb back to 13th in the world with some formidable results. The 33-year-old won the Cincinnati Open in 2020 and reached the final of the US Open in the same year and again in Indian Wells in 2021. Most recently, in January 2023, Azarenka returned to the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time since winning two titles in Melbourne in the early 2010s.
Elina Svitolina: Back to her best
Elina Svitolina gave birth to Skai Monfils on 15 October 2022 and quickly got back to training with her husband Gael Monfils as seen on his YouTube channel. The former world No 3 returned to the tour at the Charleston Open in April 2023, won the title in Strasbourg, before reaching the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros.
The Ukrainian then the semi-finals at Wimbledon where she received a wild card, beating Grand Slam champions Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek on the way.
Tatjana Maria: Two children and two triumphant returns
Tatjana Maria married former tennis player Charles-Edouard Maria in May 2013 before giving birth to their first daughter, Charlotte, seven months later. Prior to these events, she had never been ranked higher than 64th in the world but managed to come back even better than before to reach No 46 and win her first tournament in Mallorca in 2018.
The German took another break from the circuit a few years later to give birth to Cecilia in April 2021. Having fallen outside the top 300, she returned at the age of 34 to win another title in Bogota in 2022, but more importantly, to achieve the greatest Grand Slam performance of her career by reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon in the same year. Before this dream run, her best result in any of the four Majors was a third round.
Taylor Townsend: The young mum
Taylor Townsend became a mother at the age of 24, in March 2021, of a little boy named Adyn. Before that, she was a great hope for American tennis, winning the Australian Open junior title in 2012. As a professional, she reached No. 61 in the world and the semi-finals of the Newport Beach tournament in 2020.
Since her return in April 2022, the American has climbed back up the rankings and has won two titles on the secondary circuit (Charleston and Tyler). She also won a Grand Slam match again, defeating Diane Parry in the first round of the 2023 Australian Open, and has enjoyed plenty of success in doubles.
Townsend has also excelled in doubles, reaching the final of the 2022 US Open and 2023 French Open and breaking into the top 5 of the world rankings.
Yanina Wickmayer: A new dynamic
Former world No 12 and the winner of five titles in her career, Yanina Wickmayer had not reached a final on the main or secondary circuit since 2017. The Belgian decided to stop playing professional tennis because of the pandemic in order to have her first child in April 2021, a little girl named Luana.
Since her return to the circuit, she has reached the finals of three tournaments on the secondary circuit (Netanya in 2022, Tallinn in 2023, and Macon in the same year). She even won in the Estonian capital for her first title since Washington in 2016.
Amandine Hesse The recent return
Amandine Hesse became a mother to Stella on 30 July 2022 and has just returned to the courts. The Frenchwoman lost in the first round of the Lyon qualifiers in early February 2023 before winning her first two matches as a mother in Macon against Paquet and Robbe.
The 30-year-old spoke about her new motherhood and its impact on the top level during episode 132 of the “Court No 1” podcast on French radio station RMC. Prior to her stoppage, Hesse had reached 154th in the world, made it through a round at the French Open in 2015, and won three of the four doubles she played for Team France in the Fed Cup.
Evgeniya Rodina: Mother at 23
Evgeniya Rodina arrived on the circuit at a young age, at 16, and had her first child, a daughter Anna, in November 2012 at 23. Prior to that she had been at best 76th in the world and had no titles on the tour.
The Russian has since risen to No 67 in the world, won the Taipei tournament in 2016, and was a finalist at Wimbledon in 2018. Recently, Rodina made it through one more round at the 2022 US Open by knocking out Martina Trevisan.
Tsvetana Pironkova: The mystery
Tsvetana Pironkova ended her career in 2017 and became a business owner and first-time mother to a boy named Alexander in early 2018. To everyone’s surprise, the Bulgarian returned in 2020 to play two tournaments, the US Open and French Open, reaching the quarter-finals in New York for her comeback tournament and the third round in Paris.
Since then, the former world No 31 and 2014 Sydney winner played in 2021 before taking another break for maternity leave. She had her second son, Viktor, in July 2022 and has not officially announced her retirement since then, but she has not posted a tennis-related post on her Instagram account since. So who knows? Why not a new return to the circuit in 2024 at the age of 37?
Patricia Maria Tig: A renaissance at home
Patricia Maria Tig was away from the professional circuit for 18 months between late 2017 and Wimbledon 2019 to give birth to her first child. After being knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon qualifying on her return, the Romanian was treading water for a few weeks.
She reached the final in Bucharest after coming out of the qualifiers while still unranked, reached the quarter-finals in Jurmala the following week, and then won the first and only title of her career to date in Karlsruhe in the aftermath. The following year, she reached the highest ranking of her career, 56th, having only briefly entered the top 100 before her maternity.
Vera Zvonareva: The former world No 2 who keeps on fighting
Vera Zvonareva got married and had her first child in August 2016 six years after reaching world No 2 and the finals of the US Open and Wimbledon. By then, the Russian had already fallen out of the top 100 for four years.
After the birth of her child, the winner of Indian Wells in 2009 never regained her level but still returned to 76th place in the world in 2019 and was still in the top 100 in 2022 at 37 years old. In doubles, she is still ranked 80th in the world as of July 2023.
The mothers we are waiting to see again
Angelique Kerber: The brand new mother
Angelique Kerber became a mother on February 25, 2023, to little Liana. The German is still far from returning to the Tour but has confirmed that she wants to return, even if she doesn’t know when.
Naomi Osaka: Target – Australian Open 2024
Naomi Osaka announced she was pregnant just before the start of the 2023 Australian Open. The Japanese player has set herself a clear goal of being back in time to play the first Grand Slam of the season in 2024.