December 19, 2018
The WTA have come up with some new rules for tennis mothers returning to the sport after giving birth.
The changes could even be seen as a timely Christmas present for tennis mums and a victory for Serena Williams.
The organising body of the women’s game have listened to Serena and the opinions of other women on the tour.
Although Serena doesn’t get her own way on everything, she does appear to have helped bring about significant changes for the better.
New tennis mothers will enjoy a protected ranking for three years from childbirth.
It will precisely reflect their ranking from when they took time out from the game.
The special protected ranking can be used for twelve tournaments. It can also be frozen twice if the player can get into a tournament anyway.
The new rules also apply to women returning from injury. Twelve tournaments of retrospective status instead of the previous eight is a big boost. This will be a big boost to their comeback campaign.
The top 375 players will benefit, not just the top 300 as before.
Serena had wanted seedings to be protected, but it was thought by the WTA and many of the players they canvassed that this was a step too far.
Instead, the returning player will be given a place in the first-round draw that means she automatically avoids a seeded player for that opening match.
This will often be good news, not just for the returning star but the seeded player too!
Most important of all, it gives the returning tennis mum the chance to find her feet at a tournament.
The opportunity to get into some kind of rhythm before facing an even bigger threat of elimination.
The WTA have thought of women who might have adopted or gone down the surrogacy route too. For them the special protection period lasts two years.
The WTA can’t order the Grand Slam tournaments to ensure that returning mothers avoid seeded players because the four big tournaments have their own rules.
The same goes for dress code, where new WTA rules approve tights and thigh-length compression shorts with or without a skirt.
Roland Garros banned future use of Serena’s “Queen of Wakanda” cat-suit. So it will be interesting to see whether there is any attempt to push boundaries in Paris come the European spring.
For now, however, going into Christmas, female tennis players will feel they have been gifted what is rightfully theirs.
The chance for a working mum to get back into that workplace without feeling at a disadvantage. That’s something to celebrate during this joyful time.