By Kavitha Shastry
Serena Williams getting a boost in the her U.S. Open seeding is a good thing for everyone in the game.
That's according to former top-ranked women's tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, long a close friend of Williams.
"Serena is an amazing champion, she's won so many Grand Slams and so many tournaments, been #1 for so long. Being out because you're giving birth and having a baby, that's a happy and positive thing, and I think she deserves to have a higher seed," said Wozniacki, who joined Cheddar after ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.
Williams ー who's spent 309 weeks as the #1 woman in the sport, trailing just Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova for time at the top ー saw her official ranking drop when she stepped away from tournament play to have her first child. She was unseeded at this year's French Open, her first Major event back on tour ー a move many saw as a slight to the superstar, who won the 2017 Australian Open when eight weeks pregnant.
A run to the Wimbledon final in July, just 10 months after giving birth, helped bring her ranking back up to its current #26. But U.S. Open officials used their discretion to seed her nine spots higher at #17. Williams has, after all, won the title in New York six times and is going for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title.
But Williams, just named the highest-paid female athlete by Forbes, is far from guaranteed victory in such a crowded field.
Current world #1 Simona Halep of Romania won the first Major of her career at the French Open this year and snagged a title at a top-tier tournament in Montréal and a runner-up finish in Cincinnati earlier this month. And defending champion Sloane Stephens backed up her Cinderella run from 2017 with a second Slam final in Paris. She comes to New York at a career-high #3 ranking.
Wozniacki could be a contender too. The two-time U.S. Open finalist ー she lost her 2014 bid to Williams ー also won her maiden Grand Slam this year at the Australian Open. She's seeded second in New York but is coming off a tough summer. The Dane hasn't won a match since the first round of Wimbledon in July and most recently pulled out of Cincinnati with a knee injury.
On top of that, she'll kick off her campaign against Australian Samantha Stosur, who actually beat Williams in the 2011 U.S. Open final.
"It's not an easy first round, but I'm just looking forward to getting into it," Wozniacki said. "I love the U.S. Open. It's such an amazing tournament. The fans really take good care of me and look out for me and support me, so I'm excited about this."
Williams may have an easier time with her first round ー she faces world #60 Magda Linette of Poland, who's only won one match at this event in her career.
With Williams and Wozniacki on opposite halves of the women's draw, they'd only meet each other if they both make it to the championship match.
The 2018 U.S. Open begins on Monday.
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