Serena Williams was seeded No. 25 for her return to Wimbledon after having a baby, a decision by the All England Club announced Wednesday that elevates the tournament's seven-time champion above her ranking of 183rd.
Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles during her career, was unseeded at the French Open. While WTA rules allow women who miss time because of a pregnancy to enter events based on their pre-absence ranking, there is no guarantee of a seeding, a policy which has been the subject of much debate in recent months because of Williams' status.
The 36-year-old American gave birth to a daughter last September and was off the tour for more than a year.
For Wimbledon, seedings generally had followed the WTA world rankings, which protects players who have been out due to injury but not those absent due to pregnancy. However, the All England Club can make a change if deemed "necessary to produce a balanced draw."
By doing so, Williams has been afforded protection from having to face any other seeded player in either of the first two rounds. She missed Wimbledon in 2017, but won the title the past two times she was in the field, in 2015 and 2016
The US Open said earlier this month that it would update its seeding policy to take into account a player returning from pregnancy.
Putting Williams at No. 25 now means that she could face someone seeded No. 1 through No. 8 in the third round. The draw for Wimbledon is Friday; play begins Monday.
Simona Halep is No. 1 in the women's draw, with defending champion Garbine Muguruza at No. 3 behind Caroline Wozniacki. Venus Williams is No. 9, Australia's Ashleigh Barty is No. 17, home favorite Jo Konta is No. 22 and Maria Sharapova is seeded 24th, one place ahead of Serena Williams.
Defending champion Roger Federer, who is seeking an eighth singles title at Wimbledon, leads the men's draw, ahead of second-seeded Rafael Nadal, who is ranked No. 1 in the world. They are followed by Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro.
Two-time champion Andy Murray, who was world No. 1 ahead of the 2017 Championships, remains unseeded as he continues his comeback from a hip injury.
Former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, who is ranked No. 32 in the WTA rankings, is the player most disadvantaged by the decision to seed Serena Williams. The Slovakian would have taken the last seeded spot but instead goes into the open draw.
"I don't think it's the right thing to do," Cibulkova, a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, told the BBC ahead of the announcement. "I think it's just not fair."
Unless a seed withdraws before the start of the tournament, Cibulkova could potentially face Halep or even Williams in the first round. Petra Kvitova, the two-time champ who is seeded No. 8, pulled out of her third-round match at Eastbourne on Wednesday with a hamstring problem, putting her status for Wimbledon in doubt.
"I think it's now right that WTA offers a protected ranking. I think that's good," Cibulkova said at the Eastbourne championships. "But I think this is a little bit of a different story. Why should I not be seeded if I have the right to be?
"I think if it was a different player, not her, I think she would not be seeded. It's just because she won it many times and she's Serena Williams. So I think that's why."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.