Serena Williams’ early exit from Indian Wells 2018 has sparked a debate on pregnancy in the women’s tennis world and how it affects their seeding in tournaments. Some tennis experts are saying that female players are getting punished for choosing to have a baby while others think that the current seeding rule is fair. However, the 36-year-old mother is choosing to stay out of these discussions and instead chose to post a “shady” picture with her daughter, Alexis Ohanian Jr., on Instagram.
Willaims announced that she was pregnant in 2017, after winning the Australian Open while seven weeks pregnant. The latter half of the year was a whirlwind affair for her as she took a break from tennis to give birth, get married, take a honeymoon and ring in the new year.
After giving birth to her first baby on September 1, 2017, Serena has been plotting to make her comeback at the 2018 Australian Open, to defend her championship title. However, at the last minute, she decided to pull out as she was not completely ready to perform at the highest levels.
Her recent attempts to get back on the world stage have been met with disappointment. She suffered an early exit in Indian Wells, losing to her older sister, Venus Williams, in the Round of 32. This instantly sparked a debate on whether the seeding of new mothers should be protected.
“I think they are going to start talking about changing the way some seedings are done and I hope they do,” James Blake, the director of Miami Open said to Sky Sports. “For someone who goes on maternity break, they should be protected […] there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded.”
But not everyone in the tennis world is of the same opinion. Mandy Minella commented that the seeding rules should stay as they are. As someone who also had a baby, she said that it is not a punishment.
“I don’t think we would be talking about this if it wasn’t Serena,” the 32-year-old said to BBC. “There are many players who have been out because of pregnancy and there will be many more. “It’s not that we are punished for being pregnant […] If seeded now, she would take away the spot of another girl who had fought all year to have a seeding, so it’s a tricky situation.”
Serena Williams has stayed out of the conversation for the most part. Instead, she is fulfilling her role of being a mother and showed that her daughter is learning some of the “shady” attitude from her on Instagram.
Right now, the all-time champion is 491 seed according to WTA Tennis. She is set to face Naomi Osaka in the first round.