Williams, 36, was ranked No. 1 when she left the pro tour to give birth to now-8-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia. Now, more than a year later, she’s ranked no. 453 and French Open organizers won’t give her a seeding when she returns for her first major since the birth that nearly killed her, the Associated Press reports.
“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 said in a statement to the AP. “Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week’s world ranking.”
Although Williams can enter Roland-Garros under the Women’s Tennis Associations’ special ranking rule, having no seeding will likely leave the three-time French Open champion to face highly ranked players early in the tournament, according to the AP.
On Tuesday, USA Today published an article condemning the “discriminatory” way in which motherhood is viewed in the world of women’s tennis — and concluded that Williams is being “punished” for having a baby.
“To not recognize that [giving birth] should warrant an exception, be it for Williams or any new mother, is both outdated and mean-spirited,” author Nancy Armour wrote. “Not to mention short-sighted on the part of French Open officials, who risk seeing one of the world’s most popular athletes make an early exit from her first major since she had her daughter because she’ll face top competition right away.”
According to the AP, WTA officials are considering implementing rules to protect seeding for highly ranked players, but, if approved, those likely take affect until 2019 at the earliest.
Williams, who attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding last Saturday, has collected two wins and two losses since her return to the sport in March. And other players, including Maria Sharapova, have suggested that Williams deserves a seeding.
“I would like to see that (rule) change,” Sharapova said last week at the Italian Open, according to the AP. “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.”
Top-ranked Simona Halep added: “It’s normal to give birth. It’s normal to have protected ranking. … It’s more than tennis. 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.”
Williams has long been vocal about her desire to return to tennis after giving birth, telling Vanity Fair last June that she would return to the court by January 2018. However, Williams withdrew from the Australian Open that month, revealing in a Snapchat post, “After performing in my first match after giving birth I realized that although I am super close I’m not where I personally want to be.”
Around that time, Williams opened up about her health complications, revealing to Vogue that she underwent an emergency C-section. Following the birth, Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism and underwent several surgeries. She has said she was bedridden for six weeks.
Williams made her triumphant return to March, and has never missed a chance to share sweet photos and videos of her daughter and her husband, Alexis Ohanian Sr. She even gives updates about her tennis career on social media.
In a Monday Twitter post, the tennis legend wrote: “And…… just like that anti doping is here ….again… second time this week. proud to participate to keep the sport clean. Even if they do test me at my current ranking of 454 in the world. Two times every week.”