Dec 18, 2018, 1:38:29 AM

The WTA has approved a couple of new rules with the main one allowing women returning from maternity leave (and extended injury) to have a protected seeding.

The WTA has made a decision that considers players coming back to a playing career from maternity leave and their potential seeding at tournaments. This matter heralded a fair amount of strong discussion earlier in the year and came to light, and a head, with the return of Serena Williams following the birth of her baby.

A player returning from maternity leave is entitled to a protected ranking which allows them to enter a tournament, but that does not allow them a protected seeding and for any player that is a negative, if they were entitled to a seeding during their playing time. It was especially surprising coming from a women’s organisation which should be doing all possible for their members.

Well things have changed for the better but it has been a long road of discussion on the matter. Beginning in 2019 players returning from pregnancy or long-term injury will be able to use their Special Ranking at additional tournaments and for seeding purposes.

“These changes are designed to fully support players in their return to competition, while maintaining the highest standards of athletic competition and fairness,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said.

Here are the highlights as pointed out by the WTA:

* A player who is out of competition for 52 weeks or longer may use her Special Ranking in 12 tournaments.
* All players with a Special Ranking are eligible to use that Special Ranking for seeding purposes.  
* If a player’s Special Ranking would qualify her for a seeded position, then she will be an “Additional Seed” in the draw, meaning that she will be randomly drawn to an available line in the draw that does not play a seed in the first round. 
* With this solution, no player will be bumped from her earned seeded position. 
* This applies to all draws except for 48 and 96 main draws where no player plays a seed in the first round. 
* The rule will apply to Special Ranking players for the first 8 tournaments played upon their return to competition. 
* The rule will apply both to players who have already returned to competition but whose Special Rankings have not expired and to players who will return to competition with a Special Ranking in 2019.
* Additionally, a player that has a Special Ranking for pregnancy has a 3-year period to use the Special Ranking, which now begins at the birth of the child.

I don’t think I’m quite in agreement with the “additional seed” aspect but this is a step forward.

The discussion centered around Serena Williams because she is by far the highest profile individual, but WTA Player Council member Victoria Azarenka is another one affected by this and when all this surfaced, she definitely held a mature and considered approach.

Miss. Azarenka said: “I’m very happy with the constructive process we have gone through and the resulting new WTA rules that will help players returning from pregnancy compete back on Tour. Our players should feel comfortable and confident to take time away from the courts to have a family or recover from injury and I think these new rules support that. This is a really good first step and we are using it as a base to continue to look for ways to improve and highlight the importance of mothers working and being on Tour.”

Another rule passed by the WTA is to do with clothing and says players at WTA tournaments will not be penalized or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them. This stems from the fact that discredited French Federation President Bernard Giudicelli has placed a ban on an outfit like the catsuit worn by Miss Williams at the French Open this year.