Serena still hitting balls, baby bump and all

By Danielle Rossingh

PARIS (Reuters) - At six months pregnant, Serena Williams is refusing to let her baby bump get in the way of forehands or backhands -– she is still working out and playing tennis to retain her touch, her long-time coach told Reuters on Saturday.

Although the 23-times grand slam champion has not played competitively since winning the Australian Open in January, she has been soaking up the Roland Garros atmosphere in Paris this week, watching sister Venus play and catching up with friends.

"She's working out and she even played tennis the other day," her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou said in an interview at the tennis stadium on Saturday.

"She said to me she didn't want to lose her touch.

"Of course she went slow, but she wanted to hit the ball."

The American former world number one, who announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in December, posted a picture on Snapchat on April 20 with the words "20 weeks". That means Williams would currently be 26 weeks pregnant.

Although the three-times French Open winner deleted the 20-week photo afterwards, her pregnancy was confirmed later that day by her publicist, Kelly Bush Novak.

Speaking at a TED conference a week later, Williams said she had been keeping a weekly diary of her pregnancy and had accidentally posted the shot online.

Although Williams turns 36 in September, and achieved a long-time goal when she won an Open era-record 23rd grand slam title in Australia, she has every intention of coming back, according to Mouratoglou.

"When she called me to tell me she was pregnant, in the same sentence, she said: 'I'm pregnant but I will be back, will you wait for me?'" the Frenchman said. "She is really planning on coming back, and she said to me 'I am not done, I cannot finish like this.'"

Since Mouratoglou started coaching Williams at Wimbledon in 2012, the pair have won 10 grand slam singles championships together and rewritten the tennis history books. The only big record left to break is that of Australia's Margaret Court, who won 24 grand slam singles titles between 1960 and 1973.

Although Kim Clijsters, Evonne Goolagong and Court all won grand slam singles titles after having a child, none of them did so after the age of 31. Victoria Azarenka, a two-time grand slam winner and former world No. 1, had a baby boy last year when she was 27 and will return to competition next month during the grass-court season.

But for Serena, age is just a number.

"Since she still feels she can win grand slams, she doesn’t want to stop,” Mouratoglou said. “The day she will think, I am too old, or for any reason, I don’t have the motivation, I cannot win any more grand slams, of course she will stop straight away."

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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