WTA Announces Rule Changes for 2019 Season·
Series of WTA rule changes announced addressing return from pregnancy and evolution of allowed attire
(December 17, 2018) WTA – ST PETERSBURG, FL, USA – The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), with ratification from its Board of Directors, has approved a series of rule changes that include measures designed to make it easier for women to return to Tour competition from pregnancy as well as to modernize the dress code.
After an in-depth review including a great deal of input from WTA players, the Board approved significant changes to the Special Ranking rule. Beginning in 2019, players returning from pregnancy or long-term injury will be able to use their Special Ranking at additional tournaments and for seeding purposes. The change, as approved by the Board, is viewed as a “well balanced approach.”
“These changes,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon, “are designed to fully support players in their return to competition, while maintaining the highest standards of athletic competition and fairness.”
Highlights of the changes to the rule include:
· A player who is out of competition for 52 weeks or longer may use her Special Ranking in 12 tournaments.
· All players with a Special Ranking are eligible to use that Special Ranking for seeding purposes.
· If a player’s Special Ranking would qualify her for a seeded position, then she will be an “Additional Seed” in the draw, meaning that she will be randomly drawn to an available line in the draw that does not play a seed in the first round.
· With this solution, no player will be bumped from her earned seeded position.
· This applies to all draws except for 48 and 96 main draws where no player plays a seed in the first round.
· The rule will apply to Special Ranking players for the first 8 tournaments played upon their return to competition.
· The rule will apply both to players who have already returned to competition but whose Special Rankings have not expired and to players who will return to competition with a Special Ranking in 2019.
· Additionally, a player that has a Special Ranking for pregnancy has a 3-year period to use the Special Ranking, which now begins at the birth of the child.
Victoria Azarenka, former WTA World No.1 and a current member of the WTA Players’ Council stated, “I’m very happy with the constructive process we have gone through and the resulting new WTA rules that will help players returning from pregnancy compete back on Tour. Our players should feel comfortable and confident to take time away from the courts to have a family or recover from injury and I think these new rules support that. This is a really good first step and we are using it as a base to continue to look for ways to improve and highlight the importance of mothers working and being on Tour. My goal as a member of the Players’ Council is to make sure that the WTA is the pioneer of being the most progressive and inclusive association in sports.”
The Board also reviewed its rules to ensure that players at WTA tournaments are not penalized or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them.
“While this has not been an issue to date,” Simon said, “we wanted to make it clear that there is no prohibition on these items. We understand the importance of modernizing the dress code and ensuring that our players have flexibility in choosing the clothing they wear. Our rules should not prohibit that.”
Click here to read more in depth rule changes from WTA Insider.