Mothers in Tennis Grow in Influence

Every tennis-playing mother’s circumstances are different. Azarenka shares custody of her 18-month-old son, Leo, with her ex-boyfriend. Rodina, who will make at least $216,318 for advancing to the fourth round, which is more than triple her year-to-date earnings, has leaned on her national federation for financial assistance because sponsorships have, for the most part, proved elusive.

Williams has sponsors that stood by her during her maternity leave, which is not a given. Although KPMG recently made headlines by saying it would honor its full contract with the pregnant L.P.G.A. star Stacy Lewis, endorsement deals for women often don’t make allowances for pregnancies, which could prevent them from fulfilling the appearance requirements. Some contracts don’t make allowances for gender at all; in at least one instance, a female player was handed a contract that had clearly been drawn up for a man, as evidenced by the “he” pronouns sprinkled throughout the copy.

In professional sports, if not the dictionary, policy follows progeny. The L.P.G.A., to fill a growing demand, started offering day care to players at its domestic tournaments in 1993. Fully staffed nurseries are a tournament staple on the men’s tennis circuit, perhaps not coincidentally because Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who have a combined 35 major titles, also have eight children among them.

Williams said that Azarenka had been “leading the charge” for WTA events to add on-site nurseries. She added that she was willing to lend her support to the cause.

“I definitely think it’s important for the WTA to add that,” Williams said.

By pressing for change while contending for championships, Williams, Rodina and all the other tennis-playing mothers are empowering younger players.

“Sometimes you try to see yourself in that position,” said Kristina Mladenovic, 25, of France, “and you think, ‘Would I be able to do that? How my life is going to turn out to be?’ Because we are all women and life is not just about tennis. So, yeah, it’s very great to see. They are great examples for women in the world.”

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