When Serena Williams returned to tennis after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in 2018, Angelique Kerber asked her what the experience had been like. What followed were a lot of details, none of which seemed particularly relevant to the life of the three-time major champion.
Similarly, Kerber queried Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka about navigating the challenges of motherhood and playing professional tennis. These days, she said recently, she’s paying a lot more attention to their answers.
“When you talk now to them, it’s more intense listening to what they say,” Kerber said from her home in Poland. “We see the moms can come back, also winning big titles. And I hope I can also be one of them, inspiration for new moms and women to come back to doing their business.”
Kerber, who turns 35 in January, made headlines this past August when she announced she was pregnant and withdrawing from the US Open. She’s due sometime “this spring,” which likely means March or April. It’s not a matter of if she’ll come back, she said, but when.
“I don’t know what time or which tournament because I really want to take the time,” Kerber said. “And when I come back, I want to come back 100 percent, fit again and feel good. This is the plan.”
The 2023 US Open — she won the title there in 2016 — seems to be the unofficial goal. Based on the returns of the three women she consulted, barring complications, this should be doable.
Williams’ last match before giving birth was the 2017 Australian Open final in late January, which she won over sister Venus. Olympia was born Sept. 1, 2017 and Williams’ first match back was Indian Wells, in March of 2018 — just over six months after a harrowing childbirth.
Azarenka’s son, Leo, was born in December of 2016, and she was back on court seven months later at Wimbledon in 2017. Clijsters gave birth to daughter Jada in late February 2008, nine months after retiring. Jada was 18 months old when Clijsters won the 2009 US Open, leading to some memorable on-court photos with the trophy. She would win two more Grand Slam singles titles as a mother.
Kerber’s last match was June 27, losing in the third round at Wimbledon to Elise Mertens. Her last title came a month earlier, in Strasbourg back in May and she was ranked as high as No.15 this year. If she competes at next year’s US Open, she would be 36. For the record, Williams was 36 when she reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018. She did the same thing a year later. Azarenka was 31 when she reached the final of the 2020 US Open.
The best advice she’s gotten?
“Take your time,” Kerber said, “enjoy the moment now. And then, they said I will feel when the time is there to come back. It’s better to take one month later than one month earlier.”
Kerber has been busy lately, overseeing the launch of a skincare line. She and German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer — who have both suffered skin damage from the sun over the years — are the driving forces behind newkee care essentials that are already available in Europe.
She’s trying to remain active, bicycling, hitting the gym — and hitting balls at the Angie Kerber Tennis Academy not far from her home in Puszczykowo, Poland.
“I play with the young children,” she said, laughing. “ Not so intense, but I’m there. This makes me actually also happy because I’m missing the tennis life. I’m also looking forward to the new life and what next year will bring for me.”