Abu Dhabi: Serena Williams has welcomed the Women’s Tennis Association’s decision to take her case as an example to offer greater rankings protection to mothers returning to the tour.
Williams, who was World No. 1 when she announced her pregnancy had fallen to No. 451 when she was not seeded at the French Open on her return last season. However, at Wimbledon she was seeded 25th despite being ranked outside the world’s top 32 players.
“I think it’s great,” said Serena, who gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September 2017 and returned to action within five months.
“Women who are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it. They don’t have to wait until the twilight of their years to have children. I think it’s a really great rule.”
A player returning from pregnancy will now have a three-year period to use her Special Ranking, which will now begin at the birth of the child. The updated rule will ensure the players who would qualify for a seeded position in the draw will not face a seed in the opening rounds whether returning from pregnancy or injury.
“I think having gone through the experience myself really opened my eyes,” said Serena. “Would have I done it sooner had there been different rule changes? I don’t know. But now there is an opportunity, people don’t have to ask that question.”
Serena garnered a lot of support from former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who returned to tennis in mid-2017 after the birth of her son. World No. 1 Simona Halep and five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova had also voiced their opinion in favour of Serena.
Sister Venus, who took on Serena, the 23-time Grand Slam champion in the capital yesterday, also supported the move saying: “Yes, things are changing now and people know that one can have a family and still play and win major tournaments. I’m happy to have that transition go along and that should be for women and for men.”
Serena, who will be playing her first match since September’s US Open final defeat by Japan’s Naomi Osaka which was marked by her outburst at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, speaking about the season ahead and her contest with Venus said, “It’s great, me having to do anything with Venus especially to come here and play. We have done so much for the sport and women’s sport. A lot has changed in the last season. I’ve had a wonderful year that I didn’t expect and I’m back here so I feel it is a good kick-off to my season.”
Serena, who will chasing her 24th Grand Slam, felt that it still holds a lot of significance as it did in the past and she is hungry for more.
“Yes, it always had a lot of significance since I got 22 and then 23. It is something that I clearly want but I have to beat a lot of good players to get it,” said the 37-year-old, who is currently World No. 16.