To honor Mother's Day this Sunday we're turning our attention to some of the most inspiring players on the WTA - who else but the mothers? Tennis is a love game, and this inspiring octet has taken that catchy slogan to an entirely new level by returning to tennis after starting families, with their fresh-faced loved ones in tow.
Following in the footsteps of Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Kim Clijsters, each of whom claimed Grand Slam titles after giving birth, Evgeniya Rodina, María José Martínez Sánchez, Klaudia Jans-Ignacik, Casey Dellacqua, Tatjana Maria, Cara Black, Katalin Marosi and Kateryna Bondarenko have all returned to the tour to pursue their passion for tennis instilled with a new perspective.
For some, like Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko, a comeback wasn't originally in the cards. "Actually I didn't want to play anymore," the 28-year-old confessed to wtatennis.com. "I was tired already from being on tour, and when I had a baby I decided to quit. But then after one year I had dreams that I'm playing tennis and it looked so good."
Bondarenko had multiple dreams about tennis, and eventually she couldn't resist making her way back to the tour, with her family by her side. "It's much easier when we're all together," she said of her husband and daughter Karin. "Without my baby I don't feel like anything. I just want to be with her."
Unlike Bondarenko, Klaudia Jans-Ignacik, currently the World No.42 in doubles, always knew she'd be back. Motivated by what she saw Kim Clijsters do in 2009, she planned meticulously from the beginning of her pregnancy, and three months after giving birth she was out on the practice courts again. "The first thing after I found out that I'm pregnant I said, 'Okay, I just need to check the calendar for 2014,' and I was checking which tournament I can start with," she said. "Three months of practice and I played the first tournament."
She added: "Definitely when I saw that Kim Clijsters was coming back, I was thinking: 'Wow, I can do the same!' And then it happened, and at the time I was pregnant Cara Black also came back, and she had very good results."
Jans-Ignacik says that she and Black exchanged e-mails and that the Zimbabwean played a large role in making her believe that she could make it on tour as a mother. "Her e-mail was so positive that I knew I can make it," she said. "Of course there were some people saying, 'You will see it will be very tough,' but when Cara wrote me this e-mail I was like, 'Wow, I can make it.'"
One thing that all mothers agree on is that they view their careers from a different perspective after they start a family. "I think I'm more comfortable on court," Jans-Ignacik said. "There is something like, 'So what? I'm going to lose the match and it's only tennis.' There is something else that I can come back to."
"Now after losing a match when I see my baby smiling, it's all gone after that," Bondarenko adds.
Hungary's Katalin Marosi, who made her return to the doubles court after more than a year off in Katowice this winter, agrees. "When I lose a match it's a different story when I finish and I see my son outside the court," the 35-year-old said. "I do not get upset about it like I used to before, that's for sure."
Casey Dellacqua, whose partner Amanda gave birth to their son Blake in 2013, credits motherhood for helping spring her career to a higher level. "Pretty much since Blake came along my career is the best it's ever been," said the Aussie, who finished inside the Top 30 for the first time in her career last year. "I think part of that has been because I'm content and I'm happy. Any loss is very easily eradicated by just being able to see Blake."
Guided by love and a powerful passion for tennis, the WTA's current crop of mothers is blazing a path for others to follow in the future. Just like the success of Goolagong and Clijsters motivated them to rise to the challenge, today's mothers have the power to inspire generations to come.
For that we give thanks and our appreciation this Mother's Day.