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Pregnant Serena Williams will return to pro tennis in 2018

REUTERS
LOS ANGELES
Published

Tennis superstar Serena Williams, who announced on Wednesday that she is pregnant, will not play again in 2017 but will return to the tour in 2018, her spokeswoman said. Kelly Bush Novak told Reuters that Williams, 35, "definitely" would not be able to play again this year but "looks forward to returning in 2018."

Meanwhile, Williams makes the tennis superstar even more attractive to corporate sponsors, allowing her to extend her reach into maternity wear and motherhood products, sponsorship industry executives said. She, 35, is already known around the world for her dominance of women's tennis, but pregnancy would make her even more likeable in the eyes of the wider public, experts in the sponsorship industry said.

"You take an iconic name who's now a brand and you add pregnancy to it, you get a happy story," said Gary Fechter, an attorney at McCarter & English who has represented companies in sponsorship deals. "This just makes her even more valuable."

With almost $29 million in salary and sponsorship earnings, including from Nike Inc and PepsiCo Inc, Williams ranked as the top paid female athlete in the world last year on a list compiled by Forbes magazine. But lower prize money in tennis left her 40th in the overall standings.

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