What happens when you’re one of the top athletes in the world and then you have a baby? The answer to this question should be that you become a mama, take some time off, get back to training and kick-start your career. But as Serena Williams prepares for the French Open, it seems like her maternity leave has put a huge dampener on her career standings—and it could hurt her big time during this tournament.

Williams, who had serious complications during and after childbirth, was ranked the number 1 female tennis player last year before she gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia with new hubby Alexis Ohanian. Now that it’s French Open season, the superstar athlete mom’s rank has dropped to 453. From number 1 to 453 is quite the plunge—and the reason is pretty frustrating.

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Mama bear and baby cub #beingSerena @hbo

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Unlike an office job or another “traditional” career, Williams’ maternity leave seems to have earned her something that “regular employees” don’t have to deal with (or, if we’re being honest, shouldn’t have to, because of federal protections for workers taking medical leave): dropping from number 1 to 453 in rank sure looks like a demotion. According to a statement made to ABC News, the French Tennis Federation said, “This year, again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA rankings.” The statement went on to add (emphasis ours): “Consequently, the seeds will reflect this week’s world rankings.”

Since Williams didn’t compete for the 13 months she took as maternity leave from the sport, her rank plummeted to 453 the week that seeds were announced. What does this mean for Williams? The now unseeded star must face much higher-ranked opponents during her first three rounds.

Can Williams battle her way from her 453rd ranking back to her number 1 spot? Williams has one the French Open three times already—and she did win the Australian Open while pregnant last year—so we’re pretty sure that she can do just about anything she sets her mind to. Tennis fans will just have to wait and see.

—Erica Loop

Featured Photo: rhythmstrip via Flickr


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