Serena Williams sparks pregnancy-related WTA rule changes involving rankings and dress code

After a 2018 season that saw Serena Williams encounter criticism for her outfit at the French Open, where she was unseeded following the September 2017 birth of her daughter, the Women's Tennis Association has announced changes to rules that influenced both issues.

As the Associated Press reported Tuesday, players returning to the WTA tour can now use a "special ranking" for up to three years from the birth of their child, and women at WTA tournaments will no longer be penalized "or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them."

Williams had an eventful season that closed in controversy at the US Open, where her arguments with umpire Carlos Ramos stole the spotlight from singles champion Naomi Osaka. But it began at the 2018 French Open, where she was not seeded despite being  ranked No. 1 before being bedridden for six weeks following her daughter's birth. Williams went on to withdraw from the Open due to a pectoral injury after advancing to the fourth round, but in future tourneys, she'll be able to benefit from the "special ranking."

She'll also be allowed to wear her viral black catsuit, which French Open officials initially said in August that they would ban. French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli went on record saying attire like Williams' skintight outfit will "no longer be accepted" after the 2018 tournament, but Williams apparently spoke with Giudicelli after his comments. And now the WTA has struck a different tone entirely, stripping down its women's dress code.

A 23-time Grand Slam winner, Williams was named GQ's Woman of the Year for 2018. She made her anticipated return to the court at the French Open before advancing to the women's singles final at Wimbledon, participating in the Silicon Valley Classic and Cincinnati Masters, and then finishing as the runner-up at the US Open.

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