Tennis: New women’s ranking rules

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Women tennis players returning to the professional game after giving birth will enjoy new rules on rankings from next season.

Following pressure from the likes of Serena Williams, who had a daughter in 2017 and returned to competitive tennis in February 2018, reaching two grand slam finals that year, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) has changed the rules to allow women coming back from childbirth to retain their previous rankings for twelve tournaments over a period of three years.

However, her wish for women to be seeded in line with their previous rankings has not been granted.

Instead, the WTA has decided to guarantee that they will not face a seeded player in the opening round of any tournament.

The seeding system remains in the discretion of the organisers of the tournament concerned and is designed to ensure that the world’s best players do not meet in the early stages of competitions but play instead lower-ranked players in the opening rounds.

The new rules on rankings, which also apply to women players returning to the game following injury, appear to introduce a fairer system and more level playing field.

But, what about male players who return to competitive tennis after paternity leave?

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’