Seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams has been seeded 25th for this year’s tournament as she returns to the sport after giving birth to a baby daughter in September.
Ending weeks of debate, the All England Club that organizes the British Grand Slam tournament decided to amend the rules and seed her, instead of following the ranking list that doesn’t take into account players’ taking a break for maternity leave.
Williams, the most successful tennis player in history who was ranked No. 1 when she took her maternity leave, is ranked 183rd in the world after returning to the tour in March.
She tweeted Monday: “7 days until Wimbledon. It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since my first title in London. What I remember most from that day is the genuine happiness and support from my competitor, big sister and best friend @Venuseswilliams.”
Williams has a 9-month-old daughter Alexis with husband Alexis Ohanian.
Williams, 36, told “Good Morning America” previously that it has been “interesting” to watch the world of tennis adjust its rules for new moms.
“Unfortunately, in the ’90s they changed the rule whereas if you were injured [and] then you came back, you lose your seeding,” Williams said. “But they never took into account women that left No. 1 [because of pregnancy] “and left not for an injury, but to have a great life and not give up tennis, but to come back.”
Katrina Adams, the U.S. Tennis Association’s president, agrees. Players should not be “penalized” for starting a family, she recently told The New York Times.
“We think it’s a good message for our current female players and future players,” she said before today’s ruling. “It’s OK to go out and be a woman and become a mother and then come back to your job, and I think that’s a bigger message.”
Williams has an ally in John McEnroe, the legendary U.S. tennis player and three-time Wimbledon champion, who now sits on the tournament’s seedings committee. To him, it’s a straightforward decision.
“I don’t think there would be a player that would complain, especially the top ones, if she was one of the top eight,” he said before today’s ruling. “Why in the world would they want to play her in the first, second, third round? Nor should they, in my opinion.”
Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki said she totally supports Williams.
“She’s the greatest player to ever play the sport, having won so many Grand Slams and being number one for so many years,” she said before today’s ruling. “She deserves a seeding.”
Williams played unseeded at the French Open in May, eventually pulling out of the Grand Slam in the fourth-round because of an injury. Wimbledon runs from July 2 to 15.