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By Chris Oddo | Thursday April 20, 2017

 
Venus Williams

With Serena Williams out for the remainder of 2017, these five players could stand to benefit.

Photo Source: CameraWorks

Looking at the WTA after Serena’s Pregnancy Announcement Serena Williams shocked the tennis world with the announcement that she’s 20 weeks pregnant on Wednesday, and we’re trying to make sense of the madness by peering ahead into the great abyss. It’s wonderful news that Williams is embarking on a new journey, and we’re thrilled for her and her family, but we must admit, we’ll miss her passion and intensity, and of course her never-ending quest for Grand Slam titles. We thought this was going to be the year that Williams might tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles won, and whether she got there or not it was going to be fun to see Williams gunning for more history this season.

More: Serena Williams Announces Pregnancy on Snapshat

But Queen Serena is on to bigger and better things. A Williams’ spokesperson said she will miss all of 2017 but plans to return in 2018. She’ll turn 36 in August – still young when you are blessed with superwomen genes, right?

While she’s out, let’s take a look at the five players who stand to benefit the most from her absence.

1. Maria Sharapova

Many people made light of the fact that Williams made her pregnancy announcement on April 19th—Sharapova’s 30th birthday—thus overshadowing the Russian’s big day as she makes final preparations for her return to the European clay next week in Stuttgart. But in truth Serena gave Sharapova a colossal birthday gift. The Russian now gets to return to a WTA without having to worry about facing the woman that has defeated her 18 consecutive times, including Sharapova’s last match, at the 2016 Australian Open. What better gift is there?


It’s unclear what type of tennis Sharapova will be able to produce after being out of the game for over a year, but if she makes a return to form she will instantly be a potential Grand Slam winner. It may seem far-fetched but how many times have we seen comebacks hit the ground running in the WTA Tour? Kim Clijsters comes to mind. She returned to tennis after two years off at Cincinnati in 2009. A few weeks later she won the U.S. Open.

A player with Sharapova’s pedigree – if healthy – should be able to do the same.

2. Angelique Kerber

In an odd rankings anomaly, Serena Williams will return to No.1 next week for the eighth time and the 317th overall week, but her reign will be brief. Angelique Kerber will likely move back to No.1 shortly thereafter and when she does she will have a chance to cushion her lead at the top before Wimbledon. That’s important for Kerber rankings-wise, because she has a lot of points to defend from Wimbledon through the U.S. Open this year, and Karolina Pliskova is breathing down her neck.

3. Karolina Pliskova

Speaking of Pliskova, there she is, just about 1,000 points behind Williams and Kerber in the rankings and looking like she has a very good chance to make a push to become the 23rd No.1 in WTA history this summer. Pliskova didn’t need any help getting by Serena at last year’s U.S. Open – she took care of that all by herself in the semis, but with Williams out, particularly at Wimbledon, it could potentially make a title run a bit for feasible for her.

4. Venus Williams

Venus Williams has always been adamant about the fact that her sister is her biggest rival and toughest competitor on a tennis court. It was just a few months ago that Serena denied Venus of what would have been her 8th major title. With her sister off the radar for the remainder of the season, could it be time for Venus to go all the way at Wimbledon? It’s a tough ask. The WTA is tough from top to bottom these days, but if Venus gets to the final weekend, she won’t have to deal with the often harsh reality of facing her legendary sister for the title.


5. Agnieszka Radwanska

With a 9-7 record on the season, not many are thinking about Agnieszka Radwanska going deep in majors. But don’t count the Ninja out. The 28-year-old just might see Williams’ temporary departure from the tour as the motivational tool she needs to get her game back on track.

Radwanska has been close at Wimbledon before, losing to Serena in the final in 2012. She also lost to Williams in the quarterfinals at 2008 and owns a lifetime record of 0-10 against Williams.

Surely Radwanska will be a bit more confident when the draw comes out at the next major with only one Williams on it.

 

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