first_imgShe dominated the tennis world like never witnessed before, smashing virtually all records in the process. Serena Williams is, however, struggling to re-enact the form that made her such a ‘beast’ on the court after being delivered of a baby girl last September.  Kunle Adewale reportsWhile recovering from birth can be relatively speedy, most experts recommend waiting until you have had your postnatal checkup (usually around six weeks) before embarking on vigorous exercise. A caesarean birth might require more time. But even if you are physically capable, exercising while you are bleary-eyed from the exhaustion of tending a newborn is a different matter. While exercise is clearly beneficial, and indeed can help fend off the symptoms of postnatal depression, finding the energy and motivation and childcare can be very hard.That is why it is perhaps unsurprising that Serena Williams, who had her first child in September, withdrew from the Australian Open, saying her fitness wasn’t yet at the level she wanted.She lost in her return to tennis after giving birth in September, beaten by French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, in an exhibition and she said afterwards, “I don’t know if I am totally ready to come back on the tour yet. I know that when I come back, I definitely want to be competing for championships. I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there.“I don’t think I am going to rate my performance. I have plenty of comebacks, from injuries, from surgeries, but I’ve never had a comeback after actually giving birth to a human being. Knowing that I have won 23 Grand Slam titles and several other titles, I don’t think I have anything more left to prove. But I am not done yet.”Serena indeed made her comeback at the ongoing BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells. Walking on court for the first match of her latest comeback, she allowed herself a rare smile. This time, tennis is different for the 23-time major winner.She beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open last Thursday night after a 14-month layoff for the birth of her daughter.“I almost cried before the match,” Williams said. “With new husband and Reddit co-found Alexis Ohanian looking on, Williams played from behind until breaking Diyas in the 11th game of the first set. Diyas netted a forehand and Williams yelled, “Come on!” as the crowd cheered.“Right now, for this particular tournament, I’m really just trying to take it easy and not put so much pressure or stress or expectation on myself. I feel like it’s one of the few times I’ve been able to do that.”However, in round three at Indian Wells, Serena came up against her sister, Venus and the former world number one lost in two straight sets to her older sister and admitted she has “a long way to go. It wasn’t easy, obviously,” said Serena.It was the 29th meeting between the Williams sisters – Serena now leads 17-12 – and it lasted 87 minutes in front of a main stadium crowd of more than 10,000 fans, including current world number one Simona Halep.“It was good to play and try to get in the rhythm and get into the swing again,” added Serena.“I can’t really replicate the situation no matter how much I do in practice. I make those shots 10 times out of 10 in practice.“It’s just the nerves, the anticipation you feel naturally. It’s a little bit of everything that comes in a match that just doesn’t normally happen.“It’s good that I don’t have to say that this is the best tennis I have ever played and I lost. My room for improvement is incredible.“So I have just got to keep saying at each tournament that my goal is just to be better than the last. I don’t want to go backwards.”Serena was already pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia, when she beat Venus 6-4 6-4 in Melbourne at the start of 2017.However, she revealed in February that she “almost died” after giving birth and was bedridden for six weeks.Williams has been away since winning the 2017 Australian Open early in her pregnancy. She gave birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. six months ago. There are examples of other elite athletes returning to top form soon after giving birth. In 1991, Liz McColgan took gold at the 10,000m at the World Championships, seven months after her daughter Eilish was born.Jo Pavey won the 10,000m at the 2014 European Championships aged 40, 10 months after the birth of her second child. However, the fact that both victories were greeted with astonishment shows that such speedy returns are relatively rare – and certainly shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat new mothers who are finding it hard enough to get to a weekly yoga class.A little less than a month after giving birth in 2007, Lindsay Davenport was back on the court, winning two titles — Bali, Indonesia, and Quebec City in the second half of the year. Besides that, she was named the 2007 Comeback Player of the Year. She worked her way back up to the world’s top 25 before year’s end and went on to win the U.S. Open in 1998 and the Australian Open two years later.Being a new parent is exhausting, but there are additional physical challenges for a post-partum mother – including recovery from childbirth, bleeding and dealing with breastfeeding.And those challenges are only magnified when you are a top sports star hoping to return to elite level. Which is why it is perhaps unsurprising that Serena Williams, who had her first child in September, withdrew from the Australian Open, saying her fitness isn’t yet at the level she wanted.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img

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