World number one Simona Halep says Serena Williams deserved to be seeded ahead of her at Indian Wells on her return from the birth of her daughter.
Williams has no official ranking after spending a year off court to give birth, which means she cannot be seeded for WTA events.
With her protected world number one ranking, the American great can gain entry to eight tournaments in 12 months – including two Grand Slams.
Williams was defeated in the fourth round at the California event by her sister, Venus, losing out 6-3 6-4.
Halep was courtside for that match, the Romanian saying on social media was there as a ‘fan of the game and the Williams sisters’.
She also revealed after her own fourth-round win over China’s Wang Qiang that she felt Williams deserved to be seeded number one on her return to competitive play.
“To give birth is the best thing in the world. It’s more than a sport,” Halep said.
“I think she should have been actually number one seed in this tournament because she left as number one in the world.”
Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill, has also supported Williams’ return, insisting on social media that players ‘should not be penalised for giving birth by starting from zero’ on their return to the WTA circuit.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka made her return to tennis at the Mallorca Open in June 2017 as a wildcard after the birth of her son, while she used her protected ranking to play at Wimbledon in the same year.
Halep meanwhile is 2.60 to win the title at Indian Wells this week, with Venus Williams now 9.50.