Evgeniya Rodina has caused quite a stir at this 2018 Wimbledon. The Russian into the fourth round of a major for the first time after upsetting American Madison Keys and she prepares to face Serena Williams for a spot in the quarterfinals, the 29-year old can feel a connection to her opponent that goes past the 23-time Grand Slam champion being her idol.
Rodina knows "how tough it is" to come back to tennis after giving birth
No matter who wins, a mother is guaranteed to be in the last eight at the All-England Club. "I know how tough it is to come back to tennis after having your first child", Rodina said.
She knows "one of the hardest things about being a mother on the tour is travelling with your child and organising someone to look after them when you're playing or training."
Despite the challenges of balancing being a mother and continuing her career, the Russian has no regrets: "But then I wouldn't want to travel without my daughter Anna as then I would miss her so much. So it's not easy."
Mothers on tour "communicate with each other"
Rodina gave birth to her daughter in 2012 and returned to the tour a year later, so she can empathize with what Williams is trying to do. "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.
Rodina's admiration of Williams can be traced back to when she was a teenager and she went to watch her play at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. "I immediately liked her style, the way she plays. She's my idol. I also think she's the greatest ever."
Qualifier feels she has "nothing to lose" against Serena
Ranked 120th in the world, Rodina is entering her match with Williams not feeling any pressure.
"Of course, people play better against Serena because you have nothing to lose against her. 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."
Making arrangements for her daughter easier at Wimbledon for Russian
With her best ever run at a major, some of that might be traced to the facilities in London, which has a kids' room for the players' children. "Here at Wimbledon, it's much easier because there's a kids' room. My child can stay here all day if she wants to, but at other tournaments, my daughter doesn't have those opportunities.
"It's tough because she can't sit and watch my matches when she's five years old. 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."
As the years have passed, Rodina has found it easier to combine her dual roles of motherhood and tennis player: "She's growing up and she understands more now than I need to go to practice or to play matches. She can watch me playing on the TV or iPad. It was harder when she was small, but now it's different."