New York: Tennis superstar Serena Williams on Wednesday appeared to suggest she is pregnant, posting a photo of herself in a bathing suit on the social media site Snapchat with the caption "20 weeks".
The 35-year-old, who will return to the No 1 ranking in the world next week, later deleted the photo. A representative for Williams declined to comment on whether the post was a confirmation that she is pregnant.
If Williams is indeed 20 weeks into her term, that would mean she was approximately two months pregnant when she captured her record 23rd Grand Slam tournament title at the Australian Open in January.
Her victory over older sister Venus Williams broke a tie with Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam singles championships in the sport's modern era. Serena Williams has not played since, citing a knee injury.
Fans reacted with a mixture of awe and glee at the news.
"Serena Williams was pregnant when she won her 23rd grand slam tournament at the Australian Open. And did not drop ONE SET. Let that sink in," wrote Twitter user @noelleharmony on the social media site.
"Serena Williams' fetus is already ranked 200th in the world," @BigHeadSports tweeted.
Williams, the highest-paid female athlete in the world, announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last December.
The next Grand Slam tournament this year is the French Open, which starts in May. If Williams is 20 weeks pregnant and gives birth after a full term, she would have her child in early September, during the fourth Grand Slam, the US Open in New York.
Other women have left the tour to have children and returned at a high level, though none has done so at Williams' age. Belgian player Kim Clijsters retired and had a child before coming back at age 26 and winning three Grand Slam titles as a mother.
Australians Evonne Goolagong and Margaret Court also won Grand Slam titles after having children.
Former No 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 27, missed most of the 2016 season to have a baby and is expected to return to the tour this summer.
Williams is the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title and still dominates the tour at an age when most players have retired.
Williams, who has played professionally for two decades, first gained the No 1 ranking in 2002 and has held that spot for more than six years in total during her career.
Sister Venus, 36, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles.
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2017 00:01:43 IST