Serena Williams welcomes rule changes to protect mothershttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/tennis/serena-williams-mothers-wta-tour-5512273/

Serena Williams welcomes rule changes to protect mothers

As per new rules, returning mothers with special ranking would get a seeded position and can be drawn as an 'additional seed' at tournaments.

In this Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Serena Williams walks on a practice court with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, in New York.
Serena Williams had advocated for protection of women players who are returning from giving birth. (Source: AP File)

Serena Williams has hailed the change to the ‘Special Ranking’ rule for the 2019 season by the WTA which will allow players to take a break from the sport in case of pregnancy and earn special seedings in tournaments. Former World No. 1 called the decision “great” and reckons the move will encourage more players to take a break from the tour to have children and then resume resume their careers.

As per new rules, returning mothers who have a special ranking would get a seeded position and can be drawn as an ‘additional seed’ at tournaments, meaning they would not have to face a seed in the opening round of a tournament. The change also means no seed will get bumped as a result of a returning mother given a protected seeding.

Williams and other mothers on the tour such as former world number one Victoria Azarenka, had been pushing for such rule changes that would ease the transition back for women following birth of their children.

“I think it’s great,” Williams said of the new rule changes during a press conference in Abu Dhabi ahead of an exhibition match against sister Venus on Thursday. “Women that are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it and not have to wait ’til the twilight of their years to have children and I think it’s a really great rule.”

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Serena, 37, became mother to daughter Alexis Olympia in September 2017 and returned to the circuit last March at Indian Wells. “I think having gone through the experience myself really opened my eyes up to me and, ‘Would have I done it sooner had there been different rule changes?’ I don’t know. But now that there is an opportunity, people don’t have to ask that question anymore,” added Williams, who is now ranked 16 in the world.

“I think it’s a great rule change. I think it is a lot. But I feel like it’s just something that’s always going to be there and be special and ‘?m happy that they did it.”

The exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi will be Williams’ first on-court appearance since she lost the US Open final to Naomi Osaka in September in controversial manner. In the final, Serena had an outburst aimed at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, whom she accused of sexism.

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“I’m feeling good. I’ve been training for a couple of months now and I’m getting ready for the new year,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said in the UAE capital.