The lesser known Evgeniya Rodina takes on the indomitable Serena Williams at Wimbledon on Monday in a unique clash.
The Russian took the long road to SW19, battling through the qualifiers to make the main draw. Rodina then upset tenth seed Madison Keys to earn one of the biggest wins of her career, resulting in her reaching the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time.
But a greater achievement than that memorable victory – her first over a top 20 player – is that fact that she is a proud mother. Now, she faces the only other mother in the draw, Serena Williams.
“There aren’t many women on the tour who are mothers, so we communicate with each other, we talk about things, but I haven’t spoken to Serena yet,” the 29-year-old told wtatennis.com.
“She’s my idol. I also think she’s the greatest ever.”
Of course, Williams took her own long road to Wimbledon due to her pregnancy, having to apply for protected ranking and rely on officials to allow her special seeding at the event.
Like Williams, Rodina has her child Anna with her at the tournament, which presents a challenge.
“It’s tough because she can’t sit and watch my matches when she’s five years old,” continued the world number 120.
“Also, it’s hard to find someone to watch her when I play. Sometimes when I play close to home, we leave her with my family. But if we go to a tournament far away, or if I play lots of tournaments, I take her with me because I don’t want her to stay at home for a long time without me. When I’m away from her, I call the whole time.”
Similarly, Williams has seemed inseparable from baby Olympia, who is a prominent feature in much of her social media. But when the pair enter Centre Court on Monday, it’s business time. Williams has a record equalling 24th grand slam title to chase, while Rodina is just trying to ride the Wimbledon wave as far as she can.
“Of course, people play better against Serena because you have nothing to lose against her,” Rodina continued.
“I’ll try to stay relaxed even though we will probably play on Centre Court. For me, this will be an exciting moment as I will get to play against her for the first time, and I expect it will be a great match.
“I will see if I raise my level against Serena. It will be difficult of course because she’s a great player and a champion, but I just need to play my game and focus on my own tennis.”
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