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Serena Williams' post-pregnancy return to tennis is bringing sexism in the game to the fore

Is anyone surprised?

YESTERDAY SERENA WILLIAMS played her first match at Wimbledon since taking a year out after the September 2017 birth of her daughter Olympia.

Mama bear and baby cub #beingSerena @hbo

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Heart. Is. Melting.

Serena, a 7-times champion at Wimbledon, made a triumphant return to the Grand Slam tournament beating Arantxa Rus in straight sets.

Wimbledon Championships - First Round Source: Dubreuil Corinne/ABACA

Often called GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) due to her 23 Grand Slam titles, Serena’s return to tennis has been hotly anticipated.

However, it has not been without some, ahem, controversy.

When Serena gave birth (an ordeal where she nearly died due to a pulmonary embolism) and went on maternity leave, she was ranked no.1 in the world.

Upon her return at the French Open last month, she was ranked no.453 in the world, largely due to her extended absence. This meant that she had to play the top seeded players first. All Grand Slam tournaments have the option to adjust the players’ ranking differently to World rankings, but the French Open refused to adjust hers.

This decision was met with opposition from her fellow players, who disagree that an injury is akin to giving birth. Being pregnant is a physical condition that only affects women and should be seen as an exceptional circumstance that does not affect your career.

Simona Halep, who is the current No.1, said:

It’s normal to give birth. It’s normal to have protected ranking… In my opinion it’s good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth.

Tennis: French Open Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Maria Sharapova also agreed that the rule should be changed for women after a pregnancy:

It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back [after giving birth]…physically, emotionally. There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day.

2018 Wimbledon Package Source: Dominic Lipinski

Williams was due to play Sharapova in the French Open, but had to pull out due to an injury. Before their scheduled match, Williams was interviewed by a male reporter for Inside Tennis.

The shockingly sexist interaction has to be read to be believed.

The reporter started by saying:

I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question.

Ooh, 14 years, it must be a really good one…

After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his L.A. golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with his incredible analysis: that you were intimidated by her supermodel good looks.

sjp Source: giphy

Wow. What a prelude to a question.

Have the words ‘Donald Trump’ and ‘incredible analysis’ ever been used in a sentence with a straight face?

Also, another weird example of Donald Trump judging women by their looks and of him fancying someone who looks like his daughter Ivanka…

donald trump daughter Source: PA Images

Maria was also only 17 years at the time…

The reporter finally got round to asking Serena, the greatest tennis player of perhaps all time, this question after 14 years of waiting:

My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are you thoughts about that occurrence?

Serena Williams was asked if she’s been intimated by someone’s ‘good looks’ on the court.

giphy Source: giphy

*Deep breaths*

Serena didn’t respond with ‘I am a motherf**king supermodel’.

serena williams Source: giphy

…but instead graciously said:

I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.

Classy.

The reporter later apologized, after Serena’s husband called him out:

Whatever.

So at Wimbledon this year, Williams has been seeded at no.25, instead of her current ranking of 183. By placing her in the top 32, Wimbledon have given Williams ‘protection’ from playing any other seeded player in the first two rounds.

But this decision has not been met with some dissension.

Dominika Cibulkova, who was pushed out of the top 32 and ranked no.33, said that the decision is not fair on her, despite Williams currently being the second favourite to win Wimbledon according to Paddy Power.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth

The storm that has emerged because of Williams’ return post-pregnancy goes to show that there need to be an across-the-board policy on how women are ranked after coming back from maternity leave.

The issue of how women are treated in the workplace has increasingly been raised in industries of late, especially in ones that were established as male-only environments such as the financial or political spheres. The tech industry, established during the past two decades when women were in the workplace, is far and away superior when it comes to their parental/maternity policies.

Corporations, industries, and organisations that came into existence when women were second-class citizens, need to desperately change. Because women are showing no sign of stopping or slowing down.

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