LONDON – Many of Serena Williams' Wimbledon rivals have rallied round the seven-time champion to say the All England Club was right to seed the American, despite her lowly ranking.
Williams' place in the Wimbledon seedings has been a hot topic in the tennis world after her tentative return to action following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
The 36-year-old played her first Grand Slam for over a year at the French Open last month, reaching the fourth round before a shoulder injury forced her to quit ahead of her clash with Maria Sharapova.
Williams is ranked 183 after her pregnancy absence and French Open chiefs decided against seeding her. However, Wimbledon officials felt the former world number one's record on grass was so superior to her rivals that they seeded her 25th to ensure a balanced draw. Slovakian world number 32 Dominika Cibulkova was bumped from the seeding group as a result.
"I don't think it's the right thing to do. It's just not fair," Cibulkova said before the decision was announced.
"I have tried and I should be seeded. If they put her in front of me then I will lose my spot that I am supposed to have."
But as a 23-time major winner, many female players at Wimbledon believe Serena, who plays Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus in the first round, deserved to be seeded regardless of her current reduced status.
While Williams was practising at Wimbledon on Saturday -- also pushing back her scheduled media commitments by 24 hours -- the American's peers came out in support.
"For me, wasn't really surprised that she seeded. I'm okay with that. I don't really have any problems with that," said two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.
"Obviously she has so many titles from Wimbledon. She loves to play on the grass."
British number one Johanna Konta, beaten by Serena's sister Venus in the Wimbledon semi-finals last year, agreed that the tournament's chiefs were well within their rights to seed the American.
"Grand Slams have always had the discretion of doing seeds how they see," Konta said.
"I think that's why they had the opportunity to seed Serena where she is.
"It was in the pipeline and spoken about for quite some time, so I don't think anyone was surprised."
Japan's Naomi Osaka shocked Serena – playing only the fourth match of her comeback – with a straight sets win at the Miami Masters in March.
But the 20-year-old is a self-confessed fan and is happy to see her idol given the respect she deserves.
"I love her so much, I think the tournament, they have the decision, right?" Osaka said.
"So if she can get that, and for her to be so good, then I think it's okay.
"She's my favourite player. I wouldn't have played without seeing her.
"I was able to play her in the second tournament she came back. It's one of the best tennis moments of my life."AFP