The nerves will be coursing through Evgeniya Rodina's stomach as she meets Serena Williams on Centre Court on Monday evening, but not for the reasons you might expect.
A clash with a 23-time grand slam champion would usually be enough to trigger the pre-match jitters, as would the prospect of making your first appearance on Wimbledon's most illustrious court.
But Rodina's anxiety instead stems from events at the Aorangi Pavilion, near the All England Club's practice courts, where her five-year-old daughter will be hurtling around the Wimbledon creche.
"When I play, she finds it hard to sit still," Rodina said. "She has energy and needs to move. I get nervous when I am playing, [wondering] what she might be doing. And you don't get help from other players as babysitters!
"I am leaving her in the daycare centre here during my matches. She can sit there all day, she loves it, they do so many different activities every time – making bracelets, painting, she never wants to leave."
Rodina's meeting with Williams will ensure that, for one match at least, "Manic Monday" will become "Mothering Monday" at SW19.
Rodina is five years ahead of Williams in the journey back to top-level tennis after childbirth, but her route has been no less arduous.
Evgeniya Rodina of Russia returns the ball to Madison Keys during her upset victory.
In fact, Rodina's return has been arguably more challenging than the path taken by Williams, who has done so much to shine a light on maternity rights in sport. With a world ranking of 120, Rodina is a markedly less high-profile figure. There were no great debates over women's rights when she gave birth to her daughter, Anna, and there were few columns dedicated to her physical achievement.
"It was very difficult," Rodina said. "She was born in November 2012, and my first tournament after was in August 2013. I did not forget how to play tennis, but it was difficult. The hardest was the fitness, not having the power and having to get in stronger shape."
Rodina, who defeated 10th seed Madison Keys on Friday, also had to contend with a less forgiving rule book than Williams. Until this year, players returning from maternity leave had to play their first tournament within 12 months of the birth of their child in order to use their protected ranking from the day they stopped playing. As of 2018, mothers now have up to three years to start using that ranking.
Serena Williams celebrates during her Wimbledon round two victory.
Williams has benefited from controversially being seeded 25th in this year's tournament, despite being outside of the top 32 in the world rankings. "Of course it is easier when you are seeded," Rodina said. "When I came back, it was different rules. I had only one grand slam where I could use my protected ranking. Now they have changed it and also now seeded, so it is much easier. When I came back, I came to the tournament and played against the top seed. For me, it was difficult. Now they have changed the rules and it is much better."
And then there are the financial realities of being on the fringes of the world's top 100 players. Rodina achieved her highest ranking, of 74, in early 2011. "Serena is different," she said. "She has a lot of money. I don't have too much to travel with a physio, a hitting partner. I have a coach with me, he is my husband, and we have some people from the Russian Federation, like massage therapists, who can help me at grand slams."
The contest of the two mothers makes for an intriguing subplot on a day that should, in theory at least, be packed with drama at the All England Club. It seems unlikely that Rodina, a qualifier, will be able to interrupt the Williams momentum, but she knows there is nothing to lose.
"I need to play my tennis," she said. "I need to just relax. I prefer to play her than someone else. I have never played her. She is a great woman and plays unbelievable tennis. I'm delighted. She's my idol, a great player and a champion."
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will also be in action again today with the All England Club hoping a day off from World Cup football can allow the public to focus fully on tennis.
Those three will inject the usual glitz into one of the busiest days on the tennis calendar, even if there is a shortage of star names in the women's draw as a result of the "seeditis" plague that has claimed nine of the top 10 seeds. The only survivor is Karolina Pliskova, the seventh seed, who plays 20th seed, Kiki Bertens, on Court No 2.
The Telegraph, London
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