Serena Williams faces an uphill battle at the French Open this summer after organizers announced that they will not give the 23-time Grand Slam champion a seeding.
“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking,” the French Tennis Federation announced in a statement to The Associated Press. “Consequently, [the seeds] will reflect this week’s world ranking.”
Williams, who is a three-time French Open champion, sits No. 453 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings following a 14-month hiatus from the sport. She ranked No. 1 when she went on maternity leave, and her return to the court will mark her first major since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
Although the Nike ambassador can enter Roland-Garros under the WTA’s special ranking rule, Grand Slam organizers are the decision makers behind giving a player a seed. Without a seeding, Williams will have to go head-to-head against tennis’ top players early into the competition, putting at risk her chances for a title.
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The WTA treats maternity requests similar to those of injuries or illnesses. It is considering a policy change to add protected seeding for highly ranked players who return from maternity leave.
“The rule is currently under further review as part of our 2019 rules process,” the WTA said in a statement to the AP. “We remain committed to evolving with the needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from maternity leave to the tour.”
The French Open draw is slated for Thursday, and the tournament begins on Sunday.
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