John McEnroe is urging Wimbledon to rank Serena Williams in its top 10 seeds rather than "punishing" the seven-times champion for taking a year off to have a child. The tournament seedings committee is currently considering whether to include the tennis ace among the top 32 entrants in the women's singles draw.
The annual tennis championship announces its seeding on Tuesday (26 June), and despite being the most celebrated champion in the tournament's history, Williams could be treated as just another player because she took maternity leave, via The Sunday Times.
Williams - who is Harper's Bazaar's July cover star - welcomed her first child daughter Alexis with Reddit co-founder husband Alexis Ohanian last September, and is currently ranked 183rd in the world.
And although the 36-year-old has won the women's singles title seven times—most recently in 2016—she is not automatically entitled to a seeding.
Former men's champion John McEnroe—who hasn't always been Williams' loyal supporter—is advising the All England Club's championship committee to rank Williams among the top 10 seeds, saying: "No offence, but you're talking about Serena Williams.
"I don't think there would be one player that would complain, especially the top ones, if she was one of the top eight [seeds]. Why in the world would they want to play her in the first, second or third round? Nor should they, in my opinion."
McEnroe caused outrage last year after suggesting Williams would rank "like 700th in the world". Williams replied expertly to his sexist comment by tweeting: "Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.
"I've never played anyone ranked "there" nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day sir."
Former world No 4 and director of the Miami Open tournament James Blake has also argued that players should be "protected" and not punished for taking time off to have children.
"[Serena] had a kid, which we should all be celebrating, so when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded," he told the newspaper.
A Wimbledon statement added: "It is reasonable to state that the [championship] committee would have the discretion to seed a player... regardless of her WTA [Women's Tennis Association] ranking. This discussion will take place at the seeding meetings [on Tuesday]."
Meanwhile, Williams returned to her first major tennis tournament nine months after giving birth on May 30, and shared a powerful message for fellow mothers who've experienced traumatic pregnancies.
Wearing a black Nike catsuit for her return during the first round of the French Open, Williams shared a photo on social media explaining the reason behind the outfit choice.
"Catsuit anyone?" she wrote. "For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy - here you go. If I can do it, so can you. Love you all!!"
Wimbledon begins on 2 July.