Serena gets seeding at Wimbledon, but not at French Open

Brenda Watkins
May 24, 2018

Serena Williams' return to Grand Slam tennis from maternity leave just got even tougher, with French Open organisers announcing they will not give the 23-time major singles victor a seeding.

"Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes", the WTA said in a statement to the AP. While that rank has been protected during her maternity leave, which allowed her to enter the French Open, seeding is based on current rank, and this week Serena Williams is ranked No. 453. The owner of 23 major singles titles, a record for the 50-year Open era, Williams hasn't played on one of her sport's most prestigious stages since winning the Australian Open in January 2017, while pregnant.

The WTA now gives players coming off maternity leave or injuries a "special ranking", which allows them to enter tournaments but doesn't impact seeding. Seeds now rely on rankings - and Williams, after leaving for maternity leave in January 2017, saw her No. 1 spot plummet to No. 453.

Several of Williams' rivals were critical of the rule that doesn't protect a ranking when a player takes maternity leave.

It is a system that lets a player retain, for a transitional period, a former ranking upon return from a long absence - between six months and two years - due to injury, illness or pregnancy.

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"So my personal view is that it is unfair that she has not been seeded".

She has recounted the difficulties she faced in childbirth, and a pulmonary embolism made it hard for her to breathe shortly after her daughter was born.

Williams addressed it in an interview with The New York Times' Christopher Clarey in late April, before the French Open's decision, saying women should be able to juggle their personal lives and tennis without sacrificing one or the other. "I am very satisfied and confident that she will be ready for Roland Garros", Patrick Mouratoglou said in an interview for the WTA's website. She was not seeded at tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, and compiled two wins and two losses.

In contrast, the women's seedings usually follow the WTA rankings list but can be tweaked by the All England Club in special circumstances. Tennis great Maria Sharapova thinks Williams deserves seeding because it takes incredible emotional and physical effort to return to the game after giving birth. If you are forced out for a specific reason, whether it be maternity or injury, you need to be protected. "The rule is now under further review as part of our 2019 rules process".

Williams won the French open singles title in 2002, 2013 and 2015.

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