Ivanka Trump defends 'best ever' athlete Serena Williams over maternity leave dispute

Ivanka Trump is fuming over a ruling that effectively punishes tennis star and new mom Serena Williams for taking maternity leave.

On Monday, organizers for the French Open tournament confirmed that they would not be seeding Williams this year because she took time off. The tournament begins this Sunday and marks the three-time French Open champion’s first Grand Slam competition since giving birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in September.

The ruling means that Williams, who was ranked by the World Tennis Association (WTA) as No. 1 last year but has dropped to No. 453 due to her absence, risked being pitted against top-ranked players early in the competition.

Williams is in France training for the French Open. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Williams is in France training for the French Open. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Following Thursday’s draw, it was determined that Williams could face Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, assuming both win their first three matches. Though Sharapova has famously clashed with Williams over the years, she was among those decrying the French Open decision, which is based on WTA policy.

”It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally,” Sharapova told reporters last week. “There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day.”

Now Ivanka Trump has joined Williams’s corner, railing against the “ridiculous” ruling and urging the WTA to change its maternity leave policy. The WTA has said that it’s open to offering protected seeding — rather than a special ranking — in the future, but that cannot be implemented until next year at the earliest.

“Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes,” the WTA said in a statement to the Associated Press. ”The rule is currently under further review as part of our 2019 rules process. We remain committed to evolving with the needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from maternity leave to the tour.”

Many agreed with Trump — who is reportedly working on a paid family leave plan with Sen. Marco Rubio — that Williams’s playing career shouldn’t take a hit because she had a baby. Still, some critics found her outrage to be hypocritical in light of the Trump administration.

Williams, who has been vocal about the life-threatening health complications she encountered after giving birth, has not yet publicly addressed Trump’s support.

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