Tennis officials have sparked a heated debate between fans on social media after handing Serena Williams a big advantage for the year’s final grand slam, the US Open.
The six-times champion – ranked 26 in the world – has been given a boost from US Open organisers so she is seeded 17th for the New York major.
Williams, who missed last year’s tournament while she was pregnant, returns to Flushing Meadows one spot above Australia’s 18th seed Ashleigh Barty.
The move essentially means Williams will avoid the prospect of facing a top-eight seed in the third round – with a meeting against a player seeded between nine and 16 the more likely scenario.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) gave several reasons for boosting Williams’ seeding for the tournament, “including her return to competition following the birth of her daughter, her recent hardcourt performance this summer and recognition of her achievements at the US Open.”
However, the decision to hand the 23-time grand slam winner an easier passage at the US Open has divided the opinion of fans.
I hope with all my heart she loses in first round!!!! So unfair! If they are helping her, they should help all other tennis moms like Azarenka as well!!
— Celeste (@itsMeeeTete) August 21, 2018
Oh please. Azarenka is ranked 108 and this ranking doesn’t even get a player in the main draw of the USO. She was given a wild card to play in the tournament without having to play qualies so Azarenka is being given special treatment too. At least get your facts straight.
— Befree1619 (@bigbabe2022) August 21, 2018
First Wimbledon now US Open it’s embarrassing
— Matthew Knights (@mattknights1997) August 21, 2018
Yes really embarrassing that Serena made the final at Wimbledon…..🙄
— Liz (@LizzyBee0628) August 21, 2018
Fans were similarly outraged at this year’s Wimbledon when Williams was seeded 25th despite her ranking of 183 at the time.
However, the 36-year-old’s runner-up finish more than justified the decision from Wimbledon officials.
Incredibly, Williams is still a slight favourite (ahead of World No.1 Simona Halep) with bookmakers to claim the US Open title.
Halep is unsurprisingly the top seed for the tournament, with Daria Gavrilova the next best Aussie at 25th.
Arina Rodianova, meanwhile, has taken the first step towards joining Barty, Gavrilova, Samantha Stosur and Ajla Tomljanovic in the women’s main draw, winning her opening qualifying match at Flushing Meadows.
Rodionova beat Colombian Mariana Duque-Marino 7-5 7-5 to set up a meeting in the next round with American Jessica Pegula while Priscilla Hon bowed out of contention with a 6-0 6-3 defeat to Kathinka von Deichmann.
Destanee Aiava, Olivia Rogowska and Jaimee Fourlis are also contesting qualifying this week and must win three sudden-death matches to make the main draw.
US OPEN WOMEN’S SEEDINGS ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY
1. Simona Halep (ROM)
2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
3. Sloane Stephens (USA)
4. Angelique Kerber (GER)
5. Petra Kvitova (CZE)
6. Caroline Garcia (FRA)
7. Elina Svitolina (UKR)
8. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
9. Julia Goerges (GER)
10. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)
11. Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
12. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
13. Kiki Bertens (NED)
14. Madison Keys (USA)
15. Elise Mertens (BEL)
16. Venus Williams (USA)
17. Serena Williams (USA)
18. Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
19. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
20. Naomi Osaka (JPN)
21. Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM)
22. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
23. Barbora Strycova (CZE)
24. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)
25. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
26. Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)
27. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
28. Anett Kontaveit (EST)
29. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
30. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
31. Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK)
32. Maria Sakkari (GRE)