Serena may get Wimbledon seeding after Paris snub

Maria Sharapova (TIZIANA FABI  AFP

Maria Sharapova (TIZIANA FABI AFP

Sloane Stephens has never enjoyed much success at the French Open but that could soon change when the American baseliner struts into Roland Garros this year for the first time as a grand slam champion.

The French Tennis Federation confirmed yesterday that its seedings would be based on the latest WTA rankings.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion returned to the court in March at Indian Wells, where she won two matches before falling to her sister Venus Williams.

The WTA now gives players coming off maternity leave or injuries a "special ranking", which allows them to enter tournaments but doesn't impact seeding. While she was world No1 when she left the tour to give birth, Williams is now ranked No453.

The WTA Tour said it is considering a rule change to add protected seeding for highly-ranked players returning from maternity leave but the earliest that could take effect is next year.

"It's normal to give birth", top-ranked Simona Halep said. Williams "was not ready yet but needed to feel the competition, so she made a decision to play even though she was far from being at 100 percent", said Patrick Mouratoglou. This will be Williams' first Grand Slam event since she won the 2017 Australian Open when already pregnant.

According to fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, Williams is still number one, so she deserves seeding. She is up one spot in the WTA Rankings since the Twitter post.

The Wimbledon women's seedings usually follow the WTA rankings list but can be tweaked by the All England Club in special circumstances. "But in my opinion it's good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth".

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"I think it's more of a protection for women to have a life", Williams said.

James Blake, a former ATP Tour player who is the director of the Miami Open, said at the time that a player such as Williams deserved to have been "protected" by the WTA. I mean if you are forced out of the game for a specific reason, whether it be maternity or injury, you need to be protected.

When Yannick Noah beat Mats Wilander in the 1983 French Open final to end the hosts' 37-year wait for a men's singles champion, few home fans would have thought the next 35 years wouldn't produce another.

Several people in the tennis world have argued that the policy unfairly punishes women who step away to have a child - which Williams did past year - by forcing them to sacrifice their ranking to do so.

"I do expect that this rule will be reviewed further as part of our 2019 rules process".

The 25-year-old American's results on clay in the run-up to the French Open will hardly cause her opponents to shake in their boots but it is a sense of belonging as a reigning grand slam victor that could be what makes her most unsafe.

"I try to play the same way, play the same way over a longer period of time, which will be in Paris", he said.

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