Read through bleary, sleep-deprived eyes the headline from the US website Vox might have prompted some nursing mothers to shake their weary heads in disbelief. Serena Williams: Working Mom Hero, it said.

"Working mom hero"? A woman who has accumulated a nine-figure fortune hitting a tennis ball over a net? Someone who can employ any number of nannies, cooks and chauffeurs to ease the daily burdens endured by regular parental heroes?

Cue those real working mum heroes: "Do you mind if I don't break into applause for Serena while I wipe the baby vomit from my shoulder or rub ointment on my cracked nipples?"


But with sport there is always relativity. The heroism required to come back from two sets down to Roger Federer is not the kind required to disarm a ticking time bomb in a war zone. Williams making the Wimbledon final against Angelique Kerber 10 months after the birth of baby Alexis required a combination of real-life and sporting heroism.

First, consider her rehab from an agonisingly difficult birth that included complications causedby blood clots, an experience that left Williams bedridden for six weeks, surely tempting her to call time on what was already the most accomplished career in modern tennis.

"It was just routine every day I had to have a new surgery," said Williams. "Because of all the blood issues I have, I was really touch and go for a minute."

But Williams got back on the court and worked hard - yes, aided by the luxuries her wealth affords her. Again, this was not a single mother combining motherhood with long shifts flipping burgers at the local fast food outlet. But it was also not some Hollywood actor flaunting her "fabulous post-baby body" in the pages of a glossy magazine either.

Williams' ballistic game demands levels of athleticism and muscularity that cannot be honed with a few cosmetic sessions in yoga class. Especially now she is conceding at least a decade to most of her opponents.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of Williams' return is the mental application demanded of a woman whose dedication to the sport was once - mistakenly - considered suspect.

That was back in the days when Serena and Venus would prattle on in press conferences about their acting auditions, interior design businesses and language classes. Their stellar tennis careers seemingly only an entree to the more fulfilling and cerebral pursuits that would see them retire young.

Yet here are those distracted girls two decades later. Venus, 38, and still ranked in the top 10 and Serena, 36, attempting to equal Margaret Court's record 24 Grand Slam singles titles tonight after ducking into the tournament creche to check on her baby girl.


In that context, it is staggering to recall Serena's official career began on October 30, 1995 in Quebec City, Canada, where the then 14-year-old lost a Tier III event to fellow American Annie Miller 6-1, 6-1. The total prize money for the event was $240.

Williams has subsequently won US$84,811,149. (The now 41-year-old Miller rose to a respectable world No46, before retiring in 2001.)

Twenty-three years later, Williams is poised to win an eighth Wimbledon title just 10 months after giving birth; and 15 months after winning the 2017 Australian Open while 20 weeks pregnant - meaning she won both the singles and doubles in the same match.

Childbirth is not even recognised as an excuse to stop playing by the WTA rankings system, which is why Williams entered Wimbledon as the world No181. Yet Williams' return had already added a chapter to her storied career because it embodies the dedication and particularly the strength that has been her trademark.

There is a competing theory that Williams' continued dominance even after childbirth damns the depth of the women's game - one extolled by those who perpetrate the "women only play best of three sets, why should they get equal prize money?" cliches.

Of course, this does not allow for the fact Williams began her ascent in the pre-Federer-Nadal era, when the women's game replete with stars such as Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and, of course, Venus Williams had greater box office appeal than the men's.

Back then, Williams brushed aside opponents with her enormous power. This title would be particularly sweet because of her struggle just to get back on her feet.

"I couldn't even walk to my mailbox, so it's definitely not normal for me to be in a Wimbledon final. I'm just enjoying every moment."

Richard Hinds is a leading Australian sports columnist.