On Monday, organizers for the French Open tournament confirmed that they would not be seeding Williams this year because she took time off. The tournament begins this Sunday and marks the three-time French Open champion’s first Grand Slam competition since giving birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in September.
The ruling means that Williams, who was ranked by the World Tennis Association (WTA) as No. 1 last year but has dropped to No. 453 due to her absence, risked being pitted against top-ranked players early in the competition.
Following Thursday’s draw, it was determined that Williams could face Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, assuming both win their first three matches. Though Sharapova has famously clashed with Williams over the years, she was among those decrying the French Open decision, which is based on WTA policy.
”It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally,” Sharapova told reporters last week. “There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day.”
Now Ivanka Trump has joined Williams’s corner, railing against the “ridiculous” ruling and urging the WTA to change its maternity leave policy. The WTA has said that it’s open to offering protected seeding — rather than a special ranking — in the future, but that cannot be implemented until next year at the earliest.
This is ridiculous. @SerenaWilliams is a formidable athlete (best ever!) and loving new mother. No person should ever be penalized professionally for having a child! The #WTA should change this rule immediately. #FrenchOpen.https://t.co/W5jQ5aEUXm
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 24, 2018
“Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes,” the WTA said in a statement to the Associated Press. ”The rule is currently under further review as part of our 2019 rules process. 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.”
Many agreed with Trump — who is reportedly working on a paid family leave plan with Sen. Marco Rubio — that Williams’s playing career shouldn’t take a hit because she had a baby. Still, some critics found her outrage to be hypocritical in light of the Trump administration.
Save your indignation for parents with insufficient parental leave and unaffordable day care. Serena is a great athlete and she will regain top seeding in no time. BTW mothers are penalized professionally everyday. Your dad's policies have hurt women.
— louise lavere (@lmlavere) May 24, 2018
LOL, please tell me what you know about being penalized for having a child.
— Peggy Sciommeri (@Pegsci) May 25, 2018
We see you trying to get some positive cred from Serena while your father calls Black male athletes SOB's and says they should be deported for excercising their constitutional rights. Trumps are unbelievable.
— BMLewis (@BMLewis2) May 24, 2018
If is too bad @IvankaTrump is not this outspoken and offended by the behavior of her father, husband, and brother. Where is the outrage?
— Esteemableacts (@EsteemableActs) May 25, 2018
Williams, who has been vocal about the life-threatening health complications she encountered after giving birth, has not yet publicly addressed Trump’s support.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: