Are French officials discriminating against Serena Williams by denying her a seed?
The French Open is in full swing, but Serena is no longer ranked at her number one position.
According to Associated Press (AP), French organisers will not be giving the tennis star her seed after her return to tennis.
A seed means that a competitor in a tennis tournament is given a preliminary ranking for the purposes of the draw.
The players are "planted" into the bracket in a manner that is typically intended so that the best do not meet until later in the competition.
Serena took maternity leave from the sport and welcomed a baby Alexis Olympia, eight months ago.
The new mum has been very open about giving birth and her postpartum experience, which almost cost her her life.
Now as Serena prepares for a comeback to the French competition, she sits at a 453 ranking.
Before her daughter's arrival, the athlete held the number one ranking in the world.
Explaining their decision, the French Tennis Federation said in a statement to AP:
“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking...Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week’s world ranking.”
Serena does have the option to compete in the tournament under the Women’s Tennis Associations’ special ranking rule.
For the first time since the 2017 Australian Open, @serenawilliams, @venuswilliams and @rafaelnadal will all be competing in the same tournament at Roland Garros. Comment with a if you’re ready for the action in Paris from May 27-June 10! _ #usta #ustennis #serenawilliams #serena #venuswilliams #venus #rafaelnadal #rafa #rolandgarros #tennis #protennis
However, AP has alleged that having no seed will likely leave the champion at a disadvantage, facing highly ranked players early in the competition.
This has raised debate on whether or not Serena is being discriminated for having a baby.
A USA Today article branded the move by the French officials as punishment.
The publication which was circulating earlier this week said:
"Serena Williams is being punished for having a baby."
The author Nancy Armour went on to explain how she felt the rule is outdated:
"To not recognize that that should warrant an exception, be it for Williams or any new mother, is both outdated and mean-spirited. 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."
It has been reported by AP, that WTA officials are talking about a rule change.
The move, if introduced would see seeding protected for high ranking players.
Although, it doesn't look like it would help Serena as it would reportedly take until 2019 to come into effect if approved.
AP reports that Sharapova and Halep weighed in on the dispute at the Italian Open last week.
“I would like to see that (rule) change
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,” said Sharapova
“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,” added Simona Halep.
It hasn't stopped Serena though, as she took to Twitter on a Monday addressing her competition prep.
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 #BeingSerena— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) May 21, 2018
The tweet read:
“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.”
Do you think the rule should be adopted?