Ivanka Trump Fiercely Defends Serena Williams After Tennis Great Is 'Penalized' for Maternity Leave

Ivanka Trump is passionately defending Serena Williams after the tennis legend is forced to head into the French Open without a seed after taking time off to have a baby

Ivanka Trump is passionately defending Serena Williams after the legendary tennis player is forced to head into the French Open without a seed after taking time off to have a baby.

Williams, 36, was ranked No. 1 when she left the pro tour last year to give birth to now-8-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia. Because of her 14-month hiatus, her ranking plummeted to No. 453, and French Open organizers announced they are following Women’s Tennis Association guidelines and declining to seed her for the high-profile tournament — her first major since the traumatic birth that nearly killed her.

Trump, herself a 36-year-old mother of three, spoke out on Twitter after the news was made public, and strongly denounced the decision.

“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”

Williams herself has said she “almost died” after giving birth to her first child last September. Her heart rate plummeted to dangerously low levels during contractions, causing doctors to perform an emergency cesarean section.

Though the surgery went well, what followed was a six-day battle with a pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot) that led to multiple surgeries and a handful of additional medical troubles for the new mom.

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The complications delayed Williams’ return to competitive tennis, and she has remained positive despite losses following her return earlier this year. After a defeat at the Miami Open in March, she noted that “4 months ago I could not walk to my mailbox… but I will keep going forward and I’ll get there.”

Although Williams can compete at the French Open under the WTA’s special ranking rule, having no seeding will likely leave the three-time French Open champion to face highly ranked players early in the tournament.

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty; Kristin Callahan/ACE Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

In addition to Trump, Williams’ competitors on the court also spoke out in her defense after the decision to not seed her was made public.

“I would like to see that (rule) change,” Maria Sharapova said last week at the Italian Open, according to the AP. “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.”

Top-ranked Simona Halep added: “It’s normal to give birth. It’s normal to have protected ranking … It’s more than tennis. 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.”

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