Serena Williams just announced that she intends to defend her Australian Open title in 2018. The 23-time grand slam winner is expected to give birth later this year, so that would require a ridiculously swift return to tennis.
Williams opened the year with a huge win at the Aussie Open but announced that she would take leave just a few months later due to pregnancy. In her absence, the WTA has completely opened up, with Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep, Karolína Plíšková, Angelique Kerber, and Caroline Wozniacki all in contention for the no. 1 ranking.
Former no. 1 Victoria Azarenka recently returned to tennis after giving birth last December, but she’s yet to get back into the swing of things. Williams, at 35 years of age, has acknowledged that a successful return is far from guaranteed.
In an interview with Vogue magazine, she spoke quite candidly: “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.”
We all want to see Serena shine again, but how long will it take for her to regain her rhythm? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Serena Williams: Comeback Odds
Odds Williams enters the 2018 Australian Open: 1/2
Returning to play a grand slam just three months after giving birth (if everything goes according to schedule) is preposterously early. But if anyone can do it, it’s Serena. She’s acknowledged that the plan is “outrageous,” but also added: “If anything, this pregnancy has given me a new power.”
Odds Williams wins the 2018 Australian Open: 6/1
With younger players like Elina Svitolina (22), Simona Halep (25), Garbiñe Muguruza (23), and Karolína Plíšková (25) approaching their prime, the 35-year-old Williams (36 in September) won’t be the favorite heading into the Australian Open. The WTA is flush with talent at the moment and it’ll be tough for Williams after taking so much time off.
Odds Williams wins a Grand Slam in 2018: 3/1
Williams is just one grand slam short of Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles. After accomplishing almost everything there is in tennis, this is the one elusive record she’s yet to break. She may still be a little rusty for the Australian Open, but by the time the French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open roll around, expect her to be back in full form.
Odds Williams reclaims the no.1 ranking before retiring: 5/1
The no. 1 rank in the WTA is wide open at the moment, and there are five or six players with a serious shot of ending 2017 as the top women’s player. Williams, at her best, is still leagues ahead of the competition and obviously fully capable of reclaiming the top spot, but she doesn’t have too many years left to do it, and there’s a real possibility she won’t ever be as dominant as when she went on hiatus.
Odds Williams retires in 2018: 15/1
If Serena isn’t able to make a successful comeback, she’s already admitted that she’d rather retire than keep on losing. But if her return to the WTA starts out rough, she’ll probably hang in there for at least a little while longer. She’s just too fierce a competitor to give up so quickly.