Serena Williams, tennis champion and feminist icon, has criticised the insensitivity of a system that left her with no seeding when she returned from maternity leave to play last year’s French Open.
Furthermore, Williams has suggested that the injustice of the arrangement was the cause of the pectoral injury she suffered during her three wins in Paris, and which caused her to pull out of a much anticipated fourth-round meeting with Maria Sharapova.
Writing an editorial for Fortune magazine to mark International Women’s Day, Williams said: “When I returned to tennis from maternity leave, I was penalised for taking time off: my ranking dropped from No 1 in the world to No 453. That required me to face tougher competition earlier in the French Open, which led to a pectoral injury that forced me to drop out.
“I fought hard personally, making it to the Wimbledon final shortly after, but I also fought hard publicly against the biased ranking system. We must stop penalising women when they return to their careers after having children.”
The Women’s Tennis Association has since ruled that women returning from maternity leave – or injury – will not only have a protected ranking, but will be assured of a first-round match against a non-seeded player. This only applies to tour events, however. The majors are entitled to make their own decisions, as the All England Club did last summer when they seeded Williams at No 25.