How Serena Williams's ranking and seeding was affected by her pregnancy

How Serena Williams's ranking and seeding was affected by her pregnancy

Is tennis doing enough to support women who return to competition after giving birth?

Miami Open tournament director James Blake on Monday urged tennis chiefs to rethink seeding rules after Serena Williams was handed a tough draw at this week's event in Florida.

Williams, who is unseeded, faces Indian Wells victor Naomi Osaka in the opening round of this week's event.

"For entertainment reasons, it's very important to have Serena Williams in the draw, but I don't think it's important to have her in the seeding positions at the moment", Minella said. Without commenting on the matter herself, Serena's deseeding has become a talking point in Florida after she was drawn against last week's Indian Wells champion, Naomi Osaka, in the first round.

Now players who hold a protected ranking for any reason - on both the men's and women's tours - can't be seeded even if their protected ranking merits it and Blake told AFP: "For someone who goes on maternity break, they should be protected". These kinds of things shouldn't happen. Whilst the debate over seeding will inevitably continue, for Williams there will be no time to consider it as she faces off against one of the most unsafe players in the draw. This despite the fact that she left for her maternity leave as the women's world No 1, at 35 years and seven months the oldest person ever to hold that position. "She had a kid, which we should all be celebrating, so when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded", he added.

"It's a kind of punishment" - the words of Blake when asked about Serena's non-seeding and WTA rules which had previously protected players from long lay-offs, but don't now.

"For someone who goes on maternity break, they should be protected", said Blake to CNN.

She is unseeded after taking 13 months off to have her first child. Even if she returns to her previous role, Caroline Wozniacki in accounts and Angelique Kerber in sales have done a whole year of work in her absence.

"Our current rule does not allow a player who uses her Special Ranking for entry into a tournament to be seeded, whether absent for injury/illness or for pregnancy".

The WTA has, however, amended its rules in the past year so that players who are absent through pregnancy are "aligned" with those missing through long-term injury.

For the 23-time Grand Slam champion, the outcome at Indian Wells wasn't entirely unexpected.

"To give birth is the best thing in the world".

Konta, the 11th seed, will open her campaign in Florida in the second round against the victor of the meeting between Kirsten Flipkens and Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Williams - who hasn't won a tournament since claiming the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant - is on an unparalleled comeback tour to claim a 73rd WTA win and eventually a record-tying 24th Grand Slam. For starters, the victor of that massive first-round match will have to face world No. 4 Elina Svitolina in the second round, providing more early-round women's excitement in Miami.

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