WTA Changes Rule to Give Returning Mothers Ranking Protection
Mothers returning to tennis will have increased protection for their rankings on the WTA Tour from next season.
Players coming back from childbirth, or injury, will now be able to use their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period.
But Serena Williams’ wish for returning mothers to be seeded in line with that ranking has not been granted.
The WTA has instead decided to guarantee they will not face a seeded player in a tournament’s opening round.
As things stand, players must begin their comeback within two years, and then have a further year in which they can enter eight events under their protected ranking – the ranking held at the start of their absence.
Those rules also apply to players returning from injury.
But there is no protection in place for seedings, with tournaments able to use their own discretion to seed players.
A seeding allows tournaments to ensure the world’s best players do not meet in the early stages of competitions and instead play lower-ranked players in the opening rounds.
Williams returned to the sport in February after giving birth in 2017 and was not seeded at the French Open, her first Grand Slam appearance since her return, but was given a seeding of 25 for Wimbledon, despite being outside the top 32 in the rankings.
The WTA’s rule change comes after the organisation canvassed the opinions of players earlier in the year.
World number one Simona Halep and the five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova had both offered their support to Williams, but others like Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta expressed their reservations.
The WTA has also clarified its clothing rule to ensure Williams is able to wear the black catsuit which caused a major stir at this year’s French Open.
She dedicated the outfit to mothers and said it made her feel like a “queen from Wakanda”, in reference to the film Black Panther.
“Leggings and mid-thigh length compression shorts may be won with or without a skirt, shorts, or dress,” the new rule reads.
But Williams will not be able to wear it at Roland Garros next year, if the French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli gets his way. He has pledged to introduce a stricter dress code and says the outfit will no longer be accepted.
Other rule changes include the introduction of shot clocks, which have been used most notably at the US Open, at all Premier Tournaments next year. Players will be given 25 seconds in which to serve.
And in an attempt to reduce delays between sets, players will in future be allowed just one bathroom break per match.