Serena Williams was ranked No. 1 in the world when she went on maternity leave, but she will go unseeded at the French Open, which begins May 27.
That leaves the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, who is returning to the WTA Tour following a 14-month layoff, in danger of having to square off with a top player in the early rounds — and those players are facing the same unpleasant possibility.
French Open officials could have opted to seed Williams, but they announced Monday that they would follow convention and give players seeding based on the current WTA rankings.
As a result of her absence, Williams has dropped to 453rd, and she was only able to play in Paris because the WTA does have a “Special Ranking Rule” allowing players who were on maternity leave or had lengthy injury recoveries to use their previous rankings to enter up to eight tournaments within a year of their return.
That rule does not apply to seeding, but the WTA said Monday it would reconsider that for its 2019 season.
“Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes,” the tour said in a statement to the Associated Press, adding, “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.”
Some players may have not been supportive in the past of such a change to the rule, but more recently, a few prominent competitors have offered differing thoughts.
“It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally,” Maria Sharapova, a long-time rival of Williams, said last week. “There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single.”