Serena Williams' Return to Tennis After Her Pregnancy Inspires Ranking & Dress Code Rule Changes
Serena Williams has helped spark change in the Women’s Tennis Association.
The athlete, who survived serious medical complications and was bedridden for six weeks after the birth of daughter Olympia in September 2017, returned to competition in the 2018 season only to find out that her No. 1 ranking had plummeted to the No. 451 spot due to her maternity leave.
After much backlash, the WTA announced two rule revisions on Monday.
The first alteration was made to the already existing “Special Ranking Rule,” which now allows players to use a special ranking for up to three years following the birth of a child. Designed to make it easier for women to return to competition following pregnancy, the new adjustment also includes special circumstances for players who choose adoption, surrogacy or legal guardianship.
The second rule change allows women at WTA tournaments to no longer be penalized “or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them.”
In other words, Williams will now be allowed to wear her viral black catsuit, which was initially banned by French Open officials in August.
The French Tennis Federation and its president Bernard Giudicelli were not fans of Williams’ look and urged a new dress code, explaining that the 23-time Grand Slam winner’s skintight outfit will “no longer be accepted” after the 2018 tournament. “One must respect the game and the place,” Giudicelli said at the time.
Many applauded the WTA’s new rules, including tennis icon and WTA co-founder, Billie Jean King.
“I am pleased to see these rules changes at the WTA Tour to continue to protect our players in their workplace and allow them to play at their highest level,” King told The Washington Post. “The seeding of the players and the tournament draws will now be more accurate, which will ultimately benefit the fans. The players can now return to the WTA Tour on their own terms and these new rules provide protections for their health, their family and their career.”