Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, December 27, 2018

Serena Williams

Serena Williams praised the new WTA rule change that aims to provide greater ranking protection to new moms ahead of her Abu Dhabi exhibition vs. Venus Williams.

Mubadala World Tennis Championship Facebook

Working mom Serena Williams supports a WTA rule change that aims to provide greater ranking protection to new moms.

After facing criticism from both current and former players over its maternity leave policy, the WTA will give returning moms ranking protection starting next season.

More: Bouchard Goes Back To Basics

Players returning from maternity leave or injury will be able to apply their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period under the new rule.

The rule prevents returning former high-ranked players from facing a seeded opponent in the opening round.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion said the new rule will give women greater flexibility in family planning.

"I think it's great," Williams told the media in Abu Dhabi prior to squaring off against sister Venus in a Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition match. "Women that are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it and not have to wait till the twilight of their years to have children and I think it's a really great rule."

The 16th-ranked Serena will hit the new year running.

Fresh off winning AP Female Athlete of the Year Award honors, Serena will partner Frances Tiafoe facing Grand Slam king Roger Federer and partner Belinda Bencic on New Year's day when the United States plays defending Hopman Cup champion Switzerland in Perth, Australia.

In Abu Dhabi, the 37-year-old Serena is playing her first match since bowing to Naomi Osaka, 6-2, 6-4, in a controversial US Open final that saw Williams spar with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after she was hit with a coaching violation warning.

For some mothers who have already returned to action, including former world No. 1s Serena and Victoria Azarenka, the new rule may not go far enough.

When Serena returned to action in Indian Wells in March after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympic in September of 2017, world No. 1 Simona Halep said Williams should have been seeded first because she was world No. 1 when she took a break from tennis to give birth to her daughter.

"I think she should have been actually No. 1 seed in this tournament because she left as No. 1 in the world," said Halep. "And to give birth, it's the best thing in the world. It's more than a sport. So I think she should have been ranked as she left.

"Not taking the ranking because she didn't play tournaments, but just protected ranking for—I don't know how many tournaments you have, like, eight. She could be the No. 1 seed for that, for those tournaments. This is my opinion."

ESPN analyst and former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert blasted the WTA's maternity policy as "an absolute joke" for creating an issue in the first place.

"I blame the WTA. I think it's an absolute joke what they've done," Gilbert told Tennis Now in August. "They should be embarrassed. Injuries are different from somebody coming off of maternity leave. I think Serena should have come back, after her absence, with a protected ranking of number one. I felt like she should have come back for eight tournaments with a protected ranking and seeding ranking of number one."

Williams was ranked No. 26 and bumped up to No. 17 seed for her US Open return in August. Gilbert argues women returning from maternity leave should have a protected seeding based on their ranking when they left the Tour.

"Not just Serena, whoever it is. Whenever you comeback after maternity leave if you were eight you should be eight," Gilbert said. "If you were 15 then you should be 15. When Serena left the tour she was clearly one so that's a rule [change] that hasn't been done. And they need to do it because, like I said, it's an absolute joke."

Williams said the rule change will help players make a smoother transition to returning to the Tour.

"I think having gone through the experience myself really opened my eyes up to me and, 'Would have I done it sooner had there been different rule changes?' I don't know," Williams said. "But now that there is an opportunity, people don't have to ask that question anymore.

"I think it's a great rule change. I think it is a lot. But I feel like it's just something that's always going to be there and be special and I’m happy that they did it."


Latest News