MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And it's time for sports.
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KELLY: Twenty weeks - that was the caption of a photo Serena Williams shared on Snapchat on Wednesday. Her spokeswoman confirmed the news that night. She's pregnant. I'm joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN The Magazine. Hi there, Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, how are you?
KELLY: I am well, thank you. I'm sitting here doing some back of the envelope math. Serena - she won the Australian Open back in January, less than 20 weeks ago, which means when she won it - when she dominated it, by the way - she didn't drop a set - she was two months pregnant.
BRYANT: She was, which was - technically, it was a doubles tournament.
KELLY: On one side of the net at least.
BRYANT: On one side of the net, yes. Who knew that that final between Venus and Serena was actually a family affair - mother, child and aunt.
KELLY: More than we knew. Yeah, I mean...
BRYANT: She's incredible. It's absolutely an incredible story for her. And once again, I think when we were on this program, Scott and I talked about this before the Australian Open began, and we took a lot - well, I took a lot of criticism for this because people were asking about what Serena's prospects for the year were going to be. And I thought that we were going to see a major change. And we were criticized, at least the show was criticized, because she had gotten engaged. And we don't do that for men.
We don't say that because a man is being - is about to get married that, suddenly, their entire life is going to change. But if you watch Serena over the past couple of seasons, especially last year, she'd only played eight tournaments. She played the majors. She played the Olympics, and she played a couple of smaller tournaments. And then this year, she gets engaged, and now it turns out that she was pregnant. She has been signaling for a while that there's a new chapter for her, that this is - that tennis is not forever for her. And she's made it very clear in a lot of sort of vague ways. But if you're paying attention to her, you can sort of understand where she's coming from.
KELLY: OK. But I got to - I'm got a jump on you there because she is 35. As you said, you wouldn't say this about a man. She's going to have take maternity leave, but has she said she's not coming back?
BRYANT: Well, she said she is planning on coming back. However, the difference is that Roger Federer has four children. He never took any time off. Of course, you have to take time off if you want to start a family, and that is the difference. But the one thing that's been really interesting about Serena is that she hasn't really hidden the fact that there's life after tennis for her, and there's life during tennis for her.
I mean, one of the interesting things for a female tennis player is - Victoria Azarenka is another example who actually did take time off. She had a baby boy, and she's supposed to come back this year. At 35...
KELLY: Which is what Serena is, yeah.
BRYANT: Which is what Serena's going to be 36 after having done everything that you could possibly do. Let's have a little perspective about her, too. She's been playing tennis since she was four years old. She turned pro in 1995. She's been doing this her entire life. And my attitude has been that if, indeed, Serena comes back, then it would be an amazing story.
She could be like Kim Clijsters who had a baby at 23, 24 and came back and won two majors. She came back and won the U.S. Open back to back. But if she doesn't, look at what Serena Williams has done for tennis and for the American story. She has given everybody everything they could ask for and more.
KELLY: We've just got a few seconds left. But in those few seconds, Howard, what's this going to mean for the women's tour? I mean, Serena has been the ticket - the people - the person people come to see.
BRYANT: Yeah, she's the main draw, and that's the big thing. Obviously, Maria Sharapova coming back from suspension - I think the WTA could use that. But let's face it, both American tennis and the WTA has been dreading the day that Venus and Serena are no longer there because they are what makes the game go. But it's a great sport.
KELLY: Yeah, we'll see if there's baby pics (ph) at the (unintelligible) in a few years. Howard Bryant...
BRYANT: Wouldn't that be something?
KELLY: Yeah, it would be. Howard Bryant of ESPN, thank you.
BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.