Wimbledon just made a majorly feminist decision to help new mom Serena Williams this year
Tennis superstar Serena Williams is back on the court after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian: The athlete made her return in May at the 2018 French Open, dressing like an actual superhero in a catsuit. However, because Williams took time off for maternity leave and missed several big competitions, she returned to the competition circuit with a much lower international ranking than she had before taking time off.
But a recent decision at Wimbledon will help rectify the situation and allow Williams to rank closer to her actual skill level for the competition.
Although Williams is currently ranked 183rd in the world, the All England Club granted her the 25th seed (aka rank) on June 27th for when she competes at Wimbledon. Although an athlete’s seed often reflects their international rank, Club officials decided not to penalize Williams for maternity leave (she was ranked #1 in the world before taking time off). The New York Times reported that, thanks to this change, the U.S. Open is also reconsidering how it will seed players after maternity leave.
On June 26th, Williams appeared on Good Morning America to explain why she felt the Wimbledon seeding system was unfair to players who wanted to have children:
"Unfortunately, in the ’90s they changed the rule. [...] If you were injured [and] then you came back, you lose your seeding," she said. "They never took into account women that left No. 1 and left not for an injury, but to have a great life and not give up tennis, but to come back."
Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled with the decision. Slovakian tennis player Dominika Cibulkova lost her seeding thanks to the inclusion of Williams and told the BBC she felt it was unfair.
"I don't think it's the right thing to do," she told the BBC.
While it’s unfortunate that Williams’ seeding bumped another player from the list, we think the decision was important (and realistically, Cibulkova wouldn’t have made the list anyway had Williams not gone on maternity leave). Female athletes shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and having families, and any protocol that enables them to do both is a good thing and a victory for women everywhere.
We wish Williams, and all those competing at Wimbledon, the best of luck this year.