Serena Williams drug tested twice weekly while ranked No. 454

Maria Sharapova (TIZIANA FABI  AFP

Maria Sharapova (TIZIANA FABI AFP

World number one Simona Halep, speaking before the release of the French Open women's draw, also supported Williams being given a seeding.

Serena Williams was denied a seeding position for the French Open that starts on Sunday, but the American player could still get a seed for Wimbledon, a tournament that she won seven times, the last one in 2016.

But at Roland Garros, an event she has won three times, organisers are not ready to take such a step with the French Tennis Federation (FFT) reaffirming the seedings will reflect the latest WTA rankings.

The 36-year-old, victor of 23 Grand Slam titles, is ranked a lowly 453rd in the world after returning to action this year following the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia last September.

Despite her lowly ranking, she will be able to compete at Roland Garros under the WTA's protected ranking rule, which allows athletes returning from long absences to gain entry into tournaments using the ranking they had when they stopped playing. Complications from the delivery included blood clots in Williams' lungs and six weeks of bed rest - yet she still made a triumphant comeback in March, nabbing her first post-baby win at the Indian Wells Masters in California on International Women's Day. "But in my opinion it's good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth". Maria Sharapova, a longtime rival of Williams, said last week, "It's such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally". "The idea that players should have to choose between having a family and having a career is as antiquated as wooden rackets", she wrote.

Following her US Open final triumph over Madison Keys last September, she embarked on an eight-match losing streak that last till February this year.

Without a seeding, the 23-time Grand Slam victor could face highly-ranked opponents in the early round of a tournament she has won three times. But she'll try for her 24th Grand Slam as an unseeded competitor.

"This provides for a player to return with a protected ranking but does not allow for a player to be seeded based upon the special ranking which was put in place".

"I think it's more of a protection for women to have a life", Williams said. "The rule is now under further review as part of our 2019 rules process".

"As always, we remain committed to reviewing the evolving needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from pregnancy to the tour". James Blake, a former ATP Tour player who is the director of the Miami Open, said at the time that a player such as Williams deserved to have been "protected" by the WTA.

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