History was made on Labor Day at the U.S. Open, where three moms advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in the professional era.
Serena Williams, Tsvetana Pironkova and Victoria Azarenka all won fourth-round matches in New York in a first since at least 1968, win the Open Era began, according to the tournament.
Williams, the third seed seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title, began the day by battling past Greek Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3. Williams has played at least one match at the U.S. Open with 3-year-old daughter Olympia in the small crowd.
“I just have a totally new respect for moms,” she said between her third- and fourth-round matches. “I would never have thought I would be playing as a mom. … The pluses is that, one day your daughter can say she was there. Whether she remembers or not, we can always have pictures. But other than that, it’s just minus, like, I’m not with her. I’m not around her. It’s hard.”
Later in the afternoon, the Bulgarian Pironkova dispatched Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 to set up a Wednesday quarterfinal with Williams.
Pironkova, who had son Alexander in April 2018, is playing her first tournament of any kind in three years. She returned to tennis training eight months ago and is bidding to go 10 years between Grand Slam semifinal appearances.
“Everything in mothering, I guess, it’s helped me,” Pironkova said. “Obviously you become a different person. You don’t focus on yourself that much anymore, like your focus is primary on your child. And I guess that’s a good thing. I’m a lot more organized, as well. Mentally, I have more mental endurance, also. Physically, I know my body better.”
Finally, at about 10:30 p.m., the former world No. 1 but now unseeded Azarenka rallied past 20th-seeded Czech Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
Azarenka, who won two Australian Opens and made 16 total Grand Slam quarterfinals before having son Leo in December 2016, is into the last eight of a major for the first time as a mom.
“I don’t know if I feel different just because as a mother,” the Belarusian said. “I don’t identify myself on the tennis court as a mother. I still identify myself as a tennis player. Me being in the quarterfinals, I didn’t get there by being a parent. I got there by being a tennis player. But it feels amazing that I can share this moment, and hopefully be a good role model to my son.”
Other moms excelled in tennis.
Australian Margaret Court won the last three of her 24 Grand Slam singles titles as a mom. Countrywoman Evonne Goolagong Cawley won 1980 Wimbledon, three years after childbirth.
Belgian Kim Clijsters returned from childbirth and retirement to win the U.S. Open in 2009 and 2010 and the Australian Open in 2011. Clijsters unretired again this year, after seven years away, and lost in three sets in the U.S. Open first round.
“For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mom, and I love it. I really, really do,” Clijsters said when she announced a comeback last September. “But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So … what if I tried to do both? Could I be loving mum to my three kids and the best tennis player I can possibly be? Let’s do this.”
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For the first time in Grand Slam history, three moms are into the quarterfinal.
1. Serena Williams
2. Victoria Azarenka
3. Tsvetana Pironkova
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2020