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Serena hails rule changes to protect mothers in tennis

Williams returned to action last March after taking time off to give birth © AFP/File / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Dec 27 – Serena Williams has described the new changes to the ‘Special Ranking’ rule introduced by the WTA for 2019 as “great” and believes the move will encourage more players to take a break from the tour to have children then come back to resume their careers.

Under the new rules, returning mothers who have a special ranking that would earn them a seeded position can be drawn as an ‘additional seed’ at tournaments, meaning they would not be able to face a seed in the opening round of a tournament.

This change also ensures that no seed will get bumped as a result of a returning mother given a protected seeding.

Williams, along with other mothers on tour like former world number one Victoria Azarenka, had been advocating for such rule changes that would ease the transition back for players following the birth of their children.

“I think it’s great,” Williams said of the new rule changes during a press conference in Abu Dhabi ahead of an exhibition match against her sister Venus on Thursday.

“Women that are younger can go out there and have kids and not have to worry about it and not have to wait ’til the twilight of their years to have children and I think it’s a really great rule.”

The 37-year-old American had her daughter Alexis Olympia in September 2017 and returned to the WTA circuit last March at Indian Wells.

“I think having gone through the experience myself really opened my eyes up to me and, ‘Would have I done it sooner had there been different rule changes?’ I don’t know. But now that there is an opportunity, people don’t have to ask that question anymore,” added Williams, who is currently ranked 16 in the world.

“I think it’s a great rule change. I think it is a lot. But I feel like it’s just something that’s always going to be there and be special and ‘’m happy that they did it.”

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The Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi will be Williams’ first on-court appearance since she lost the US Open final to Naomi Osaka in September amid a wave of controversy that resulted from her outburst at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, whom she accused of sexism.

“I’m feeling good. I’ve been training for a couple of months now and I’m getting ready for the new year,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said in the UAE capital.

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