Serena Williams has been seeded 25th for Wimbledon

Seven-time champion could not play last year as she was preparing to give birth

Serena Williams will start her bid for an eighth Wimbledon title next weekat the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

Serena Williams will start her bid for an eighth Wimbledon title next weekat the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

 

Serena Williams, the seven-time champion who could not defend her Wimbledon title last year as she was preparing for the birth of her first child in September, returns to the All England Club next week seeded 25th among the best 32 players in the women’s singles draw. If there were no storms forecast overhead for the start of the championships, there will be a few closer to the ground.

To many disinterested parties, there is logic in the decision announced by the tournament’s seedings committee on Wednesday morning. To at least one player, the 29-year-old Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, it is profoundly unfair that Williams, ranked 183 in the world as she works her way back into the game, should edge her out of the top 32. The British No 1, Johanna Konta, says Cibulkova’s situation ought to have been taken into account.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Cibulkova, the former world No 4 and 2014 Australian Open finalist, who twice has made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, said this week.

Williams, speaking on Good Morning America before the seedings were revealed, said: “Unfortunately, in the 90s they changed the rule whereas if you were injured [and]then you come back, you lose your seeding. But they never took into account women that left No 1 due to pregnancy, and left not for an injury, but to have a great life and not give up tennis, but to come back.”

Williams, who returned to the majors at the French Open last month, unseeded, looked impressive all the way to the fourth round, where she pulled out on the eve of her highly anticipated match against Maria Sharapova.

She attracted widespread comment on her all-black cat-suit, designed for fashion and health, she revealed later – an aid to help control muscle contractions she has suffered since giving birth to Olympia. Wimbledon, whose rules do not permit coloured clothing on court, require nine months’ notice of a player’s intended outfit, so there will be no catsuit on Centre Court this year – or whatever court the 36-year-old American finds herself on.

She has not pressed loudly for a seeding but stated her case with quiet intelligence.

“I think and I hope – and it should be under review – to change these rules, maybe not in time for me, but for the next person,” she said before knowing of the decision. “Maybe she’s 25 and she wants to have a baby, but she doesn’t want her career to be over. She wants to continue to play. So I think it’s important to have those rules.”

The All England Club can sway between enlightenment and rigid discipline. It was unaware, as it happens, that the WTA rules differ from those of the ATP, which governs the men’s Tour, in that seedings at the slams are more discretionary. Richard Lewis, the club’s measured and forward-thinking chief executive, initially thought it “unlikely” Williams would be seeded – until informed by the media at the spring conference that it could do so if it wanted to.

A clamour rose in the wake of that revelation, to the point where it became a major issue. Among Williams’s many supporters was John McEnroe, who, as a former champion and invited member of the seedings committee, said in the Observer on Sunday, he would rank his compatriot, “somewhere between one and 10 – one and 16 at the worst”.

On Wednesday, the All England Club got it about right – although Cibulkova, the 32nd ranked player in the world, will not see it that way. – Guardian service

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