Serena Williams to return to French Open as unseeded player

Not seeding Serena in wrong — Evert

Sloane Stephens has never enjoyed much success at the French Open but that could soon change when the American baseliner struts into Roland Garros this year for the first time as a grand slam champion.

Williams has already benefited from this rule in the past as in 2011 she was ranked 25th before the start of Wimbledon but seeded seventh for the championships. The company is celebrating the 23-time Grand Slam champion's return to the clay court for the first time since winning the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017. Seeds now rely on rankings - and Williams, after leaving for maternity leave in January 2017, saw her No. 1 spot plummet to No. 453.

Several of Williams' key rivals believe she deserves a seeding.

"It's normal to give birth", Halep said, via The Washington Post's Des Bieler. "It's normal to have protected ranking ... it's more than tennis", Halep said.

Before thrashing Thiem 6-0, 6-2 in Monte Carlo last month, Nadal said the Austrian was "probably one of the three best clay-court players on tour", but the last fortnight has shown that Zverev is potentially even more risky.

"It's always special when I come back to Paris where I have had so many wonderful moments. But in my opinion it's good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth".

"If you're like finished or you stopped because you're going to have a child and you will be in top eight, I think you should have this kind of thing, to have protected seeding", Svitolina said.

In Wimbledon, like in all the other tournaments on the women's side, the seeding formula is authomatically given by the player's ranking.

Williams has not played a tournament since Miami in March and pulled out of the clay court events in Madrid and Rome.

On the men's side, top-seeded Rafael Nadal, a 10-time victor at Roland Garros and already an overwhelming favourite, got even more help from the draw.

A year after making her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris, Graf went a few steps further in 1987, when she won her first career Grand Slam title.

That she recently engaged in those two activities on consecutive days, in different countries, highlighted what a star she is, in and out of tennis, and added to the buzz that Williams will, indeed, return to play at the French Open, which is what her coach has vowed.

In contrast, the women's seedings usually follow the WTA rankings list but can be tweaked by the All England Club in special circumstances.

Serena Williams will play her first grand slam in 16 months at this month's French Open. "We remain committed to evolving with the needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from maternity leave to the tour".

"She's someone who the tour was missing, because she's a great champion", Ostapenko said.

"I don't think we would be talking about this if it wasn't Serena", she said.

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