Serena Williams will go on maternity leave after she welcomes her baby and will take some time off from tennis until 2018, her rep told reporters.
The 35-year-old 23-time Grand Slam champion and world's highest paid female athlete, who is engaged to the social network's co-founder Alexis Ohanian, posted on her Snapchat Wednesday a selfie of her showcasing a baby bump, with the caption "20 weeks." Her rep confirmed to E! News Serena is pregnant and due to give birth this fall.
Her rep told Reuters and Press Association Sport Serena would sit out the remainder of the 2017 tennis season and will return to the court in 2018.
For Serena, who commands nearly $29 million in salary and sponsorship earnings, becoming pregnant makes her all the more attractive to corporate sponsors, Reuters quoted industry executives as saying.
Serena has not competed since she beat sister Venus Williams to win the Women's Singles Match at the 2017 Australian Open in January, nabbing her record 23rd grand slam title, while she was two months pregnant. Last month, she withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California and the Miami Open, citing a knee injury she suffered in 2016, which had also sidelined her for four months in late 2016—part of which marked the start of her first trimester of pregnancy
Serena has also taken breaks from tennis in past years, such as in 2010, when she injured her foot twice, and in 2011, when she was hospitalized for a blood clot in her lungs.
Other female pro tennis stars have left the tour to have children and then successfully resumed their careers, but all have been younger than Serena. Kim Clijsters, who was 26 when she returned after her maternity leave in 2009. Belarus' Victoria Azarenka, 27, missed most of the 2016 season to have a baby and is set to resume her career this summer.