The news of Serena Williams' pregnancy will "only add to the pressure" on the WTA Tour, which has had to "put up with so many unscheduled absences over the past year," according to Simon Briggs of the London TELEGRAPH. Williams is the "second leading player" to become pregnant, with Victoria Azarenka having had a son "shortly before Christmas." Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has been "recuperating from the knife attack she suffered in December," and Maria Sharapova just today returned to play from a doping ban. Williams "won the Australian Open in January to move to 23 major titles, one ahead of Steffi Graf." Now there is a "possibility that the Melbourne final ... could prove to have been her swansong as a professional tennis player" (London TELEGRAPH, 4/19). Publicist Kelly Bush Novak said that while Williams "would miss the rest" of the '17 season, she "intended to return to the circuit" in '18. Bush Novak: "Serena said that I should make sure if anyone asks that that is clear." In N.Y., Christopher Clarey writes it has been an "extraordinary, and extraordinarily unsettled, stretch in women’s tennis, with major stars missing extended action for both joyful and downbeat reasons" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/20). The AP's Howard Fendrich noted Williams' absence for the rest of this season is a "blow to a sport in which she is an unqualified star." But there is a "recent precedent for tennis players to return to action after becoming a mother." Kim Clijsters retired briefly but "then came back to action and won Grand Slam titles." Azarenka also recently announced "she’ll be getting back on tour soon" (AP, 4/19).