London: Evgeniya Rodina says fellow mum and Wimbledon rival Serena Williams is her “idol” ahead of their last-16 clash on Monday.
The 29-year-old Russian qualifier made the fourth round of a Slam for the first time on Friday after a 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over US 10th seed Madison Keys.
Next up for the world number 120 is seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams who defeated France’s Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-6 (7/2).
Rodina and Williams have little in common when it comes to their playing careers.
The Russian has yet to win a tour title and has earned under $2 million.
Williams is a 23-time major winner, has 72 titles and has banked almost $85 million from playing with many more millions accrued from endorsements.
But the two women do have one thing in common: both are mothers who have resumed their careers after giving birth.
Williams’s daughter Olympia was born last September while Rodina’s girl Anna is now five and a half years old.
Rodina and Williams are two of six mothers who started in the main draw at Wimbledon this year.
“Serena is my idol,” Rodina said Friday.
“She’s a great player, a great mother and plays unbelievable tennis.”
Rodina, who is married to coach Denis Shteyngart, became a mother in November 2012 and resumed her career in August the following year.
Anna is at the All England Club every day her mother and father are on site and when Rodina is playing, the toddler stays in the creche.
“She can sit there all day with her iPad, she never wants to go out,” Rodina said.
“She will always ask did I win or lose. The other day (when Rodina beat Sorana Cirstea in the second round) she said ‘I saw you on the TV’.”
Anna has definitely caught the tennis bug despite being “a leftie”, said Rodina.
“She says she doesn’t want to go to school. She wants to play tennis.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
Rodina said she always intended to return to the tour after giving birth even if it has been a tough road.
She had to wait until the Australian Open in January 2015 to get back into a Grand Slam and before this week at Wimbledon she had never progressed beyond the second round at a major.
“I had a protected ranking but it was only for one Grand Slam,” she explained.
“But it’s not like I forgot how to play tennis — it was just a question of getting the fitness back.”
On facing Serena on Monday, she said she will not be overawed.
“I need to relax and play my tennis. I played well in the qualifying and this week to get to the fourth round for the first time in my life.
“I have nothing to lose.”