November 5, 2017 / 9:39 AM / 15 days ago

Graf backs Williams to break Court's record

ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) - Serena Williams can “absolutely” surpass Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles if the American returns to tennis after giving birth earlier this year, former world number one Steffi Graf said on Sunday.

Serena Williams attends a news conference in New York March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Williams has not competed since winning the Australian Open in January but the 36-year-old posted several videos on social media showing her hitting balls during her pregnancy.

Williams was about two months pregnant when she captured her 23rd grand slam singles title in Melbourne, one short of the all-time record held by Australian Court.

“Absolutely, yes,” Graf told fans and reporters ahead of Sunday’s WTA Elite Trophy singles final in Zhuhai.

FILE PHOTO: Germany's Steffi Graf and her husband Andre Agassi of the U.S. are pictured during their mixed doubles exhibition tennis match against Czech Republic's Jiri Novak and Jana Novotna in Prague June 7, 2011. REUTERS/David W Cerny

“I think a lot of it is determined on her drive and if that is what she wants to do.”

Graf won 22 grand slam singles titles which was eclipsed by Williams in January.

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 17/1/17 Serena WIlliams of the U.S. serves during her Women's singles first round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Williams told Vogue magazine in August about her ‘outrageous plan’ to defend her title in Australia, where the year’s first grand slam will be played from Jan. 15-28.

“It sounds from what I hear that she is looking to come back to tennis and, you know, everything that she has shown over her career just makes you believe that if she has that in her sights then she will go after it and achieve it,” Graf said.

(Story refiles to fix typo in intro.)

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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