Cape Town - The WTA Tour has confirmed that mothers returning to tennis
after giving birth will have increased protection for their rankings.
Players coming back from childbirth will now be able to use
their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period.
However, returning mothers will not be seeded in line with
that ranking, as Serena Williams requested - they will only be able to enter
tournaments based on it.
Instead, the WTA has decided to guarantee that players will
not have to face a seeded player in a tournament's opening round.
The changes are being implemented largely because of what
happened to Williams when she returned after giving birth in 2017. The former
World No 1 was not seeded at the French Open, her first Grand Slam since her
return, but was then given a seeding of 25 for Wimbledon, despite being outside
the top 32 in the rankings.
The WTA canvassed the opinions of all players earlier this
year, and the decision was made to change the rules based on their feedback.
Not everyone was in favour of changing the rules, however -
while World No 1 Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova did offer their support to
Williams, the likes of Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta did
not appear to be in favour of any changes.
Meanwhile, the WTA has also clarified its clothing rule to
ensure Williams is able to wear the black catsuit which caused controversy at
this year's French Open.
"Leggings and mid-thigh length compression shorts may
be won with or without a skirt, shorts, or dress," the new rule reads.
If French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli has
his way, however, Williams will still not be allowed to wear the outfit at
Roland Garros, as he is intent on introducing a stricter dress code at the
Grand Slam which would ban the catsuit.