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Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam when she emerged victorious at the Australian Open last year and became the women's world No. 1 in the process.
However, she took time off from the sport soon after due to maternity leave and as a result of her absence, fell down the rankings. She was given a protected No. 1 ranking that allowed her to enter tournaments upon her return in March, but was unseeded, unless organizers made the decision, meaning the chances of her playing a higher-ranked opponent early on were greater.
As the debate over maternity leave in tennis continues with calls for female players to be protected, Williams will have to continue to make do with being unseeded at Roland Garros as she takes part in her first Grand Slam in 16 months.
"This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women's seeds based on the WTA ranking,'' the French Tennis Federation said in a statement Monday, as quoted on ESPN. "Consequently, [the seeds] will reflect this week's world ranking.''Serena Williams will return unseeded for her first Grand Slam in 16 months. Pictured: Serena Williams returns a shot against Naomi Osaka of Japan during Day 3 of the Miami Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 19, 2018, in Key Biscayne, Florida.Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
The Women's Tennis Association is considering a rule change that would allow players like Williams, currently ranked 453, to be seeded as they return from maternity leave but a change would only take effect from next year.
Many of the American's tennis rivals have shown support of a rule change amid the debate as they believe Williams deserves to be seeded.
"I would like to see that [rule] change,'' Maria Sharapova said last week at the Rome Masters. "It's such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally. ... There's just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day."
"Tennis is such a selfish sport, but I think when there's a child in your life you lose a little bit of that, because there's something that's so much more important. So, yeah, I definitely think that would be a nice change,'' Sharapova said.
"It's normal to give birth. It's normal to have protected ranking. ... It's more than tennis,'' world No. 1 Simona Halep added. "So the people will decide what seed she will get. 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,'' added Elina Svitolina who retained her Rome Masters title on Sunday. "She was No. 1 so she deserves seeding.''
Meanwhile, Williams was training at Court Philippe Chatrier ahead of the French Open on Monday. The second Grand Slam of the year takes place from May 27 to June 10 with the draw being made on Thursday.The French Open organizers won't offer special treatment to Serena Williams should she make the trip to Roland Garros in Paris this summer.
"This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women's seeds based on the WTA ranking," the French Tennis Federation said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "Consequently, [the seeds] will reflect this week's world ranking."
Williams has competed in just two WTA events this year after returning to the court following the birth of her daughter. Because of that, as well as her absence for almost the entire 2017 campaign, she sits No. 453 in the WTA rankings.
Both Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep lobbied on Williams' behalf for her to earn a seed at the 2018 French Open.
Sharapova said returning from pregnancy requires "an incredible effort" that can tax a player physically and emotionally, while Halep said it's "normal to give birth" and "good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth."
Williams won the 2015 French Open and was the runner-up in 2016. Failing to be seeded this season will leave her hopes of a fourth French Open title in serious jeopardy.
Williams received a wild card entry for her return at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, in March. As a result, she played No. 29 Kiki Bertans in the second round and sister Venus, who was seeded eighth, in the third round. Serena lost to Venus in straight sets. In her next event, the Miami Open, a meeting with fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina awaited Williams if she had defeated Naomi Osaka in the first round.
Something similar could happen again at the French Open without the luxury of a seeding designation.