LONDON: Seven-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams has been seeded 25th at the tournament this year despite a world ranking of 183 as she continues her return from maternity leave.
It means the 36-year-old American, winner in 2016 but absent last year because of her pregnancy, will avoid the big names until at least the third round.
World number one Simona Halep is top seed in the women’s singles with 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza at three while defending champion Roger Federer tops the men’s seeds despite Spaniard Rafael Nadal knocking him off the number one spot in the rankings this week.
The All England Club’s seedings committee met on Tuesday with the thorny issue of whether to break from the actual WTA rankings and seed Williams top of their agenda.
While she enjoys a protected ranking and can enter the Grand Slams without having to qualify, that does not automatically mean she can also be handed a seeded position.
At the French Open last month, when her ranking was 451, she was not seeded and came up against Australian 17th seed Ashleigh Barty in the second round, winning in three sets.
She reached the fourth round before pulling out shortly before her match against Russian Maria Sharapova.
While many have said Williams, who has played only seven competitive matches since giving birth to Alexis Olympia last September, should not be penalised for taking time out to start a family, others say seeding her is unfair.
One of them, Slovakian former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, is the player most disadvantaged by the decision to seed Williams as she is WTA 32nd in the rankings and would have taken the last seeded spot.
Unless a seed withdraws before the start Cibulkova could now potentially face Halep, or Williams, in the first round.
“I think it’s now right that WTA offers a protected ranking. I think that’s good. But I think this is a little bit of a different story,” she said at the Eastbourne championships.
“Why should I not be seeded if I have the right to be?
“I think if it was a different player, not her, I think she would not be seeded. It’s just because she won it many times and she’s Serena Williams. So I think that’s why.”
Williams has won a professional era record 23 Grand Slam titles and needs one more to match the all-time record set by Australian player Margaret Court.