Serena Williams’ return sparks seeding debate


Serena Williams’ return to tennis after turning into a mother has prompted a seedings debate, with new Miami Open event director James Blake saying the report 23-time grand slam winner had been “punished” for wanting to begin a household.

This after Williams — who’s an eight-time winner on the occasion near her residence in Palm Seaside Gardens, Florida — receiving a troublesome draw on the Miami Open.

As she is at the moment ranked 491st and thus unseeded, the American does not have a bye in Miami and might face nearly anybody within the first spherical, other than seeds that did obtain byes.

She ended up drawing Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka and if Williams wins that powerful one Wednesday, the 36-year-old would confront fourth seed Elina Svitolina — who knocked the American out of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Unseeded in Indian Wells, too, Williams met large sister Venus within the third spherical, their earliest encounter since their very first assembly within the second spherical of the 1998 Australian Open.

Had Williams been seeded utilizing her protected rating of 22nd in Miami — Osaka sarcastically is at the moment ranked 22nd — she would have benefited from a bye within the first spherical and never met one other seed till the third spherical on the earliest.

‘They need to be protected’

Presently gamers who maintain a protected rating for any motive — on each the boys’s and girls’s excursions — cannot be seeded even when their protected rating deserves it and Blake instructed AFP: “For somebody who goes on maternity break, they need to be protected. These sort of issues should not occur. She has gained this title so many instances that she wants safety.

“It isn’t as if she left due to damage and misplaced her ardour for the sport. She had a child which we must always all be celebrating so when she comes again there ought to be a grace interval the place she will nonetheless be seeded.

“It is a sort of punishment which is hard.”

James Blake (left) and Serena Williams (right) at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Miami Open, which will move to a new home in 2019.

Blake — a former world No. four who was appointed Miami event director in January — hopes the tour goes again to the rule through which gamers who’re away from the sport for an extended spell may be seeded.

“I hope they revisit these talks though it will likely be too late for (Williams) except she decides to have one other youngster,” he mentioned.

“I could also be complaining about it however she by no means would. She is trying ahead to each day as a brand new problem and that is what makes her such a superb champion.

“However for me, from the skin trying in, it is smart to guard somebody who goes on maternity go away and assist her get the good thing about a better draw and a greater path.”

The WTA mentioned certainly it might evaluation the rule in time for 2019 and that it was “very supportive” of gamers who come again to the tour following being pregnant.

“This previous 12 months, the WTA made changes in an effort to align a participant who’s out for being pregnant with a participant who’s out for a long run damage,” a spokesperson for the governing physique mentioned in an e mail to CNN.

“This gives for a participant to return with a protected rating however doesn’t enable for a participant to be seeded based mostly upon the particular rating which was put in place. When reviewing these guidelines the gamers have historically expressed they don’t really feel participant getting back from a long run layoff, for any motive, ought to be allowed to be seeded.

“I do count on that this rule will probably be reviewed additional as a part of our 2019 guidelines course of.

“As at all times, we stay dedicated to reviewing the evolving wants of our Gamers and are very supportive of these Gamers coming back from being pregnant to the Tour.”

‘Shouldn’t be penalized’

Because the Williams sisters dueled in Indian Wells, distinguished coach and tennis analyst Darren Cahill mentioned ladies should not be “penalized for giving start.”

“This match shouldn’t be occurring in a third spherical,” the Australian wrote on Twitter. “Serena (and all moms) ought to be protected by the WTA and allowed to make use of their protected rating for seeding, if relevant. Girls shouldn’t be penalized for giving start by ranging from zero.”

The participant Cahill coaches — world No. 1 Simona Halep — added that Williams ought to have been the highest seed in Indian Wells as a result of after she contested her final event earlier than stepping away from the sport, she was ranked No. 1.

That final occasion was the 2017 Australian Open, the place Williams within the early levels of being pregnant beat Venus within the last.

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Victoria Azarenka, a two-time grand slam winner, equally wasn’t seeded when she returned to tennis in 2017 after giving start in late 2016. Azarenka was ranked fifth in her final event previous to her time away from tennis as a consequence of her being pregnant.

This 12 months’s Miami Open marks the event’s farewell from its present base on Key Biscayne. It can subsequent 12 months transfer to the Laborious Rock Stadium, residence to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

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