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Baroness Benjamin hails ‘phenomenal’ Serena Williams on post-baby comeback

Floella Benjamin and Keith Taylor in the royal box on centre court. Photo: PA

Motherhood should not be a hindrance to women pursuing careers, a House of Lords peer has said, as she congratulated Serena Williams on her tennis comeback.

Baroness Benjamin, better known as actress Floella Benjamin, spoke out in support of the tennis superstar when she attended Wimbledon on Tuesday.

The 68-year-old called the American tennis star, who has a nine-month-old daughter, "phenomenal".

Baroness Benjamin said: “I was the first woman to appear fully pregnant on TV and it made headlines – that was in 1981, and I got the BBC to change their attitude. I used to take my child to work with me.

“Good on her (Serena). A lot of women give up having children because they think they have to to put their career first.

“I am very much with her and support her in every way. All women should be supporting Serena. They don’t have to give up their career.”

Serena Williams celebrates her win against Arantxa Rus Credit: Nigel French/PA

It comes after Williams revealed her guilt at having to leave daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr to play matches.

On Monday she said: “I really don’t like being away from her. I also think it’s healthy in a way for me to do what I need to do, be that working mom, then go back home and be the mom.”

The 36-year-old added: “I realised, like, at Roland Garros, if the days were long, like I was playing singles and doubles there, that was hard because I felt guilty.

“I was like, I haven’t seen Olympia, like what am I doing? If it’s the shorter days, now that I’m not playing doubles in this event, I have the day off, I think that will help.”

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka is also a mum on the tennis scene. Credit: PA

Victoria Azarenka, who gave birth to her son Leo in 2016, has also been vocal about mothers’ rights on the tour.

The former world number one said that while Serena was given a seeding this year, she was not afforded the same luxury after taking time off to have a baby.

However, she welcomed the progression made on the tour, saying she was “proud” about the conversations the player council had been having.

She said in a post-match conference on Monday: "This conversation has led to numerous meetings, numerous occasions where we are discussing the rules and how can we be a leader in sports to have the best maternity policy for not – I don’t think just women – but I think all sports. And that conversation is ongoing.

“It happened, you know, a couple days ago we had a big meeting, and I feel like we are moving in a really good direction.”