Officials won’t give the tennis pro — who survived a risky, complication-ridden childbirth in September — a seed for the French Open
There’s no love for Serena Williams at the French Open.
Officials won’t give the tennis pro — who survived a risky, complication-ridden childbirth in September — a seed for the tournament, they announced Monday. Seeds currently rely on rankings — and Williams, after leaving for maternity leave in January 2017, saw her No. 1 spot plummet to No. 453.
“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking,” the French Tennis Federation told the Associated Press in a statement. “Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week’s world ranking.”
The 23-time Grand Slam champ’s lack of seed means she may face top-ranked players early on in her first major tournament since delivering baby Olympia, her first child with husband Alexis Ohanian. Complications from the delivery included blood clots in Williams’ lungs and six weeks of bed rest — yet she still made a triumphant comeback in March, nabbing her first post-baby win at the Indian Wells Masters in California on International Women’s Day.
Now French Open organizers face criticism for their call. USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour, for instance, stated plainly that “Serena Williams is being punished for having a baby.” “That logic might be understandable had Williams spent the last 16 months on sabbatical, focusing on some other endeavor. But she didn’t. She had a baby, a physically grueling experience made even more so by complications that left her bedridden for six weeks,” Armour wrote. “To not recognize that that should warrant an exception, be it for Williams or any new mother, is both outdated and mean-spirited.”
Armour went on to charge that tournament organizers and the Women’s Tennis Association view motherhood in a “discriminatory way.” “The idea that players should have to choose between having a family and having a career is as antiquated as wooden rackets,” she wrote.
Even longtime rival Maria Sharapova said last week at the Italian Open that she’d like to see the rules change.
“It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally. … There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day,” Sharapova said. “Tennis is such a selfish sport, but I think when there’s a child in your life you lose a little bit of that, because there’s something that’s so much more important.”
“It’s normal to give birth. It’s normal to have protected ranking. … It’s more than tennis,” No. 1-ranked Simona Halep added, according to the AP. “So the people will decide what seed she will get. But in my opinion it’s good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth.”
The WTA currently gives players coming off maternity leave or injuries a “special ranking,” which allows them to enter tournaments but doesn’t impact seeding. But the association signaled Monday it would reassess its rules for 2019.
“Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes,” the WTA told the AP in a statement. “The rule is currently under further review as part of our 2019 rules process. We remain committed to evolving with the needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from maternity leave to the tour.”
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