Should Serena And Other Mothers On The WTA Get Seeding When Returning To The Tour?
by Sean Randall | March 22nd, 2018, 6:32 pm
  • 20 Comments

So I’ve seen this Serena-return-but-got-screwed-because-unseeded story become a hot-button issue not just among the tennis press, but also in the mainstream media. Specifically, because Serena lost yesterday to Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka It has been decreed by many that it was somehow “unfair” that Serena had to play someone like Osaka so early in a tournament when “we know” Serena is the greatest!

As I understand it — and I believe this is true in the men’s game — when WTA players are out at least six months for either injury or on maternity leave, they can make use of a “special ranking” upon return for 8 events. That ranking gets them into tournaments they would otherwise likely not be able to because of their ranking drop.

Serena ranks No. 491 this week. Obviously, she would have had to use one of those 8 “special ranking” passes to enter Miami had the tournament not given her a wildcard. That’s not the issue, though.

The issue is why isn’t Serena seeded so she avoids such perilous opening matches like Osaka???

Well, first the WTA rule of special ranking is like that of the ATP’s where that ranking cannot be used for seeding purposes. It states clearly in the WTA Rulebook (pg 213.g), “A player may not be seeded using her Special Ranking.”

I guess the WTA could make an allowance — as they did years ago in seeding Monica Seles in her return from a knife attack — but if they give seedings based on special rankings for moms, then I think you have to do it for injuries as well.

If that’s the way they want to go, I’m OK with that. But let’s be honest, being top seed at a tournament is a reward and a reflection of how good you have been the last 52 weeks.

In Miami (and Indian Wells), should Serena, an 8-time champion there, have been the top seed when she had zero results for over a year? No! Just because she left the game as the best, doesn’t mean she’s still the best 13 months later when she returns, and so far she’s proven that she’s not getting blown out by Venus last week and now Osaka.

And in my opinion I’m not sure she ever wins another Grand Slam again — she’s 36, she’s a mom!! I commend her for all of her accomplishments and what she’s been through with injuries, etc, during her career, she’s the unrivaled GOAT, but I just don’t see a path back to the top at her age and in her condition. That said, if anyone can do it, it’s her.

I also get the argument that childbirth should be celebrated. it should, and I’m cool with that. If the WTA wants to give the moms a “better” special ranking or rank them differently or give them more events (more than 8) than the injured upon return, I’m Ok with that, too.

But again, when you return that doesn’t mean you should be seeded up at the top or at all. Seedings should be earned.

And if you did give Serena a No. 1 seed at Indian Wells and this week in Miami, after how many losses do you take it away that seed from her…??? How would that play out? And at what point then, does every tournament just do their own seeding, which I don’t have a big problem with either if they want to go that route.

Now, as for Osaka, even had Serena been the No. 1 seed in Miami SHE STILL COULD HAVE PLAYED OSAKA IN HER FIRST MATCH! Remember that.

Why? Because Osaka’s unseeded herself in Miami! The 20-year-old wondergirl is ranked No. 29 after her Indian Wells run, but the WTA released the seedings and the draw on Sunday before her new ranking was updated, and based then draw on her No. 44 ranking from the start of Indian Wells.

That’s pretty standard on the tour to do the draw before new rankings are out (even happens at Grand Slams), but in this case the WTA probably could have waited until Monday after the rankings were updated to make the draw. They didn’t, that’s on them or the system or the tournament (the men waited, but then they didn’t start play until Wednesday in Miami, the women began on Tuesday).

So to wrap up, the rules state that special rankings cannot be used for seeding, and my guess is that’s not going to change, be it for injuries or for childbirth because if you do it for one you almost have to do it for the other. My hunch is they’ll give the moms a few more events to use that special ranking when they comeback, maybe going from 8 to 11.

That said, of course Serena is worthy of a Top 32 seeding, maybe Top 5, and if the tournaments want to take that risk and seed themselves, I’m all for it. What fun that would be!

But guess what? As I said because the Miami draw came out before the rankings were updated from Indian Wells, Serena could still have play Osaka in her first match. It wouldn’t have mattered. So let’s not overthrow the system just because Serena got a tough draw. It happens, just ask Juan Martin Del Potro.

The great thing about tennis (and sports), is Serena has the chance to get back to No. 1, the traditional way. There will be more losses to come, but I’ll guess more wins and soon enough she’ll be among the seeded.


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20 Comments for Should Serena And Other Mothers On The WTA Get Seeding When Returning To The Tour?

Humble Rafa Says:

Sure. We need to have Mother Seeds. And also give their kids wild cards. Nannies can be umpires.


SG1 Says:

There have to be specific guidelines for why a player’s seeding is protected if they have to stop playing.

There’s nothing stopping a player from coming back after they’ve given birth. Their job isn’t being taken away. If they’re good enough, they’ll get back to where they belong. If not, the seeding isn’t going to help them much anyway.

In Monica Seles’ situation, I believe her seeding (…and ranking) should have been held while she was recovering from her attack. She was in the process of playing the match when it happened. You can even go as far saying the WTA’s lack of security was the reason the incident happened at all.


SG1 Says:

Tennis is a merit based sport. You earn your position in the sport by how much you win (…or lose).


RZ Says:

I agree with protected rankings for those returning from pregnancy/maternity, the same way as for injury returns. Since seedings are part of the protection system, I don’t think they should start a new system here, but rather just extend the protected ranking system for injury to include those returning from pregnancy/maternity leave.


RZ Says:

^ But I could maybe be convinced otherwise.


RZ Says:

SG1 – the more important point in Monica Seles’ situation was the guy attacked her specifically for the purpose of getting her out of the #1 situation. For that reason alone they should have frozen her ranking.

One of the reasons I still do not like Steffi Graf to this day is that she complained when Monica was coming back and was given a temporary ranking/seeding. She brought up her injuries and how hard it would be to stay at the top, while ignoring that Monica missed 2+ years when she didn’t have a chance to try to keep her place at the top.


Van Persie Says:

This sounds a bit like “Let’s increase the natality in WTA” So strange. The ones, which had good rankings before giving birth, would get WCs anyway. You do not choose to get injured, but you choose to enlarge your family. It is sport, not just a job, where you come back after maternity leave…and perhaps work fewer hours for a while….


Van Persie Says:

ATP members could also keep the ranking points, if it happens, that their wives are giving birth during the tournament, which they won the year before. Would be absurd…


RZ Says:

Keep in mind that the WTA players’ prime years are also their prime years to have babies. So it’s unfair to make it sounds like that it’s easy for them to take time off for childbirth and then come back, and also ignores all the changes a woman’s body goes through in the process of having children. (The men don’t any physical changes as a result from their wives’/girlfriends pregnancies.)

From a business model, it would help the WTA to have some sort of protected ranking system as an incentive for players who take time off to give birth to later come back. Otherwise, they could lose a lot of star players to motherhood. The WTA Tour was better off when Kim Clijsters returned from her time off. If Serena and Vika chose to never come back, the tour would lose a little luster. (Yes, there are other stars coming on board, but that would ignore what a top draw Serena is)


Van Persie Says:

RZ, it is a good point. But I rather watch a more competitive seeded, who has earned her place. Would take somethin from quality of match. My pov.

With Seles it was different. No comparison here.


Humble Rafa Says:

It’s a good think the ladies are not here yet. Otherwise some of you guys will be taken to the woodshed. If your own wife comes here, you are in the dog house forever.

Just a public service announcement.

No worries for Skeeze though. Cats don’t take offense.


RZ Says:

VP – agree. I’m all for protected rankings, but need some convincing on the concept of protected seedings (especially as such a thing doesn’t currently exist – if they added it for maternity leave, would they have to add it for injuries?).


RZ Says:

HR – I’m a lady and have been speaking up. No need to take anyone to the woodshed (yet). It’s possible to have civil discourse and debate.


Markus Says:

I’m not sure about the veracity of Graf’s alleged complaint about Seles’ protected ranking, I looked it up. I think that compliant should not be taken out of context. Here’s the report I found:

Seles returned to the tour in August 1995. In the runup to her comeback, then-WTA president Martina Navratilova proposed that Seles be reinstated alongside Steffi Graf as joint number one.[16] The WTA did so despite some opposition from players including Arantxa Sánchez Vicario and Gigi Fernández, whose tournament placements would suffer greatly by suddenly being placed behind Seles.[16][19] Graf supported Seles’ co-ranking, but not the additional proposal that Seles’ co-ranking not be determined by the minimum participation of 12 tournaments a year required of everyone else.


entigy Says:

She needs to ditch her “don’t you know who I am” attitude and earn her seeding/s on merit, like any other player.
It’s a rolling 52-week rankings calendar – if you *choose* not to play during that time, then you shouldn’t expect a seeding upon your return. Simple as.


Van Persie Says:

RZ, I am sorry, but still find this all bizarre. Do not watch matches, to see how one star has recovered from birth and under performs at a match. Would be also very carefull with protected rankings for injuries: see Nole’s match today…but he had the ranking! With Seles , was completely dufferent, agree. Let them get WCs.

HR, I am a female :)


j-kath Says:

SG1/VP: Agree.


RZ Says:

Markus – I’ll see what I can find to support what I said about Graf but I’m heading out on the road again so it may be a few days. I remember others complaining too.


Markus Says:

RZ, you don’t have to. It’s all water under the bridge. Graf, although she benefited from this unfortunate event had nothng to do with it and deserves no share of the blame. How she reacted to the protected ranking rule is her personal decision. I remember the WTA Players association headed by Pam Shriver asked the top players and only Sabatini abstained from voting. That must be the one you were referring to.


skeezer Says:

“Cats don’t take offense.”
You would know, no?
–btw you need to fix your think to a thing and study harder on your gender studies, not cat studies, you’re getting confused.

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