U.S. Open to Change Its Seeding Process for Athletes Returning From Maternity Leave

The United States Tennis Association announced the revision Friday, after the French Open received criticism for not seeding new mother Serena Williams.

Serena Williams

Serena Willams of the US reacts against Sara Errani of Italy during their 2012 US Open women's singles semifinal match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 7, 2012.

Serena Williams

The U.S. Open will revise its seeding protocol for athletes returning from pregnancy. The United States Tennis Association confirmed the change Friday, according to the New York Times.

“It’s the right thing to do for these mothers that are coming back,” USTA president and chairwoman Katrina Adams told the New York Times. She also said that players coming back from pregnancy should not be “penalized.”

Though Adams did not mention specific athletes, the announcement arrives just weeks after the French Open was criticized for the way it handled Serena Williams’ ranking. The 23-time major champion entered the tournament unseeded after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, last September. Williams abstained from playing professional tennis for over a year, causing her WTA ranking to plummet from No. 1 to No. 183.

Current WTA rules do not protect the rankings of female athletes who missed playing time due to an injury or maternity leave; however, the U.S. Open, along with the other Grand Slam events, can change their seeding process without the WTA’s approval.

“I’m a former player and I get it. I would not want to be the No. 32 player in the world who has worked hard in the last year to obtain this ranking,” Adams said. “But we’re a Grand Slam, and we have the right and the opportunity to seed the players according to what we feel is justified.”

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