Wimbledon 2018: Serena Williams seeded No 25 as she returns for first time since giving birth to daughter

The 23-time Grand Slam champion has been seeded despite playing three times in the last 12 months, with Dominika Cibulkova losing hers as a result

Paul Newman
Wednesday 27 June 2018 11:13
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Serena Williams has played only seven matches in the last 18 months and stands at No 183 in the world rankings but Wimbledon have acknowledged her outstanding record in the game by giving her a seeding her for next week’s Championships.

The seven-times singles champion at the All England Club, who returned to competition three months ago following the birth of her first child, will be seeded No 25, which will guarantee that she cannot face any of the other top players before the third round.

All tournaments on the Women’s Tennis Association tour automatically follow the world rankings with their seedings. While players returning from lengthy absences can use “protected” rankings to enter tournaments – Williams is actually ranked joint No 1 alongside Simona Halep in Wimbledon’s official entry list – they are not used for seeding purposes.

However, the Grand Slam tournaments have the right to diverge from the rankings when deciding their seedings. Last month’s French Open, where Williams was unseeded, decided not to exercise that option, but Wimbledon has done so in the interests of producing what it calls a “balanced draw”.

If 36-year-old Williams had not been seeded she might have faced players like Halep, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza or her sister Venus in the first two rounds. The draw will be made on Friday.

It is not the first time in recent years that Wimbledon has “promoted” a player beyond her world ranking and some might argue that Williams should have been seeded much higher. John McEnroe, for example, believes that she should have been seeded “somewhere between one and 10, one and 16 at the worst”.

As the No 25 seed, Williams will potentially meet one of the world’s top eight players in the third round. Had she been seeded one place higher, at No 24, she would have swapped places with Maria Sharapova, who will instead have a theoretically easier match than her great rival in the third round.

Williams, who won Wimbledon two years ago but was absent in 2017 because of her pregnancy, reached the third round at the recent French Open, beating Kristyna Pliskova (then the world No 70), Ashleigh Barty (the world No 17) and Julia Goerges (world No 11) before having to withdraw before her scheduled meeting with Sharapova because of a pectoral muscle injury. She has not played since but has been practising at the All England Club this week.

Serena Williams has been seeded 25th for Wimbledon

Making Williams one of the 32 seeds means that the current world No 32, Dominika Cibulkova, misses out and could subsequently face top players in the first two rounds. Those who disagree with tournaments giving players a seeding above their ranking point out that it is unfair on a player like Cibulkova, who has worked hard for the last 12 months to earn her position in the world’s top 32.

Before the announcement of the seedings the Slovakian was not impressed at the prospect of being demoted to make way for Williams. “I don't think it's the right thing to do,” she said. “I think it's just not fair. I have tried and I should be seeded. If they put her in front of me then I will lose my spot that I am supposed to have.”

Williams reached the third round of the recent French Open

The US Open has already announced that players returning after pregnancy will not be “penalised” at this summer’s tournament, which looks certain to guarantee that Williams will be given a high seeding at Flushing Meadows. The Women’s Tennis Association is also reviewing its own policies on seedings with regard to returning mothers.

Williams’ inclusion is the only change from the world rankings in the women’s seedings. Halep is the No 1 seed, Caroline Wozniacki No 2, Muguruza No 3 sand Britain’s Johanna Konta No 22.

The men’s seedings are decided differently. Although the 32 highest ranked players are the seeds, their position can change when the All England Club apply a seedings formula which gives greater weight to grass-court results over the last two years.

Roger Federer, the defending champion, is therefore seeded No 1 despite having lost his place at the top of the world rankings this week to Rafael Nadal. Meanwhile Marin Cilic, the world No 5, is seeded No 3 on the strength of his recent grass-court results, including his run to last year’s Wimbledon final.

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