Wimbledon chiefs to decide on Serena Williams’ seeding

Wimbledon chiefs are seeking clarification over whether seven-time champion Serena Williams can be seeded at this year’s Championships.

Williams, the winner in 2015 and 2016, did not defend her title last year as she was pregnant and is now ranked a lowly 449.

Many inside women’s tennis feel players are being penalised for dropping down the rankings, in the same way as injured players, when they take time off to have children.

In the men’s draw nobody outside the top 32 is eligible for a grass-court seeding, but the rules are less clear on the women’s side.

All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club chairman Philip Brook said: “It is totally different to an injury and we have empathy and sympathy for the point being made. It is a question that we will certainly address.”

The AELTC also needs to decide whether to give Britain’s Dan Evans a wildcard following the former world number 41’s return from a drug ban.

“We have our wildcard meeting on June 19 and if he applies he will be considered along with any other wildcard applications,” added Brook.

At the annual spring press conference this year’s prize pot was announced, with the men’s and ladies winners receiving £2.25million – a rise of £50,000 on last year.

The total prize fund will be £34million, a 7.6 per cent increase on last year.

Injured competitors will be able to claim 50 per cent of their first-round prize money – up £4,000 to £39,000 – if they withdraw on site by the Thursday before the start of the main draw.

The 50:50 rule will be introduced in a bid to prevent injury withdrawals in the opening round.

An injured player’s replacement would take the other half of the prize money.

Some players drew criticism last year when attempting to play their first-round matches despite being unfit in order to still claim the cash.

Any player who competes in the first round and “retires or performs below professional standards” may now be subject to a fine of their entire winnings.

Wimbledon will not be introducing a shot clock to police the time taken between points, but it has extended the time allowed to 25 seconds with umpires instructed to enforce it.

The AELTC also confirmed it has made an offer to the nearby Wimbledon Park Golf Club to secure the early surrender of its lease. Wimbledon want to hold qualifying matches on site rather than at the current Roehampton grounds.

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