July 16, 2024
Serena Williams

Serena Williams has changed the face of female tennis in more ways than one.
The all-time great dominated the sport throughout her career, earning more than $90m in prize money alone and driving the women’s’ game into an new era of athleticism, while never being afraid to push the boundaries when it came to fashion.

Serena Williams
Williams debuted an iconic look at the 2018 French Open, but it was never to be seen againCredit: Getty

And this was never more the case than at the 2018 French Open, when Williams stunned fans by wearing a black catsuit as she won her first Grand Slam match since giving birth.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion said at the time that the outfit made her feel like a ‘warrior’, with it drawing comparisons to the Marvel film Black Panther released that year.

It was revealed in a social media post after the match that the design had helped the American to control the blood clots which had placed her life at risk after giving birth.

She shared a picture of the iconic bodysuit with the caption: “Catsuit anyone? 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!!”

But this did not go down well with all in the sport.

Later that summer, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced that the tournament would be introducing a dress code to ban similar looks to the tennis legend’s.

Guidicelli said in an interview with Tennis Magazine: “I think we sometimes went too far.

Serena Williams
Williams reached the fourth round of the French Open in 2018Credit: Getty

“The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”

While Williams said she had no issue with the decision, it faced huge backlash elsewhere.

Former world number one Billie Jean King was among those to criticise the proposal, tweeting: “The policing of women’s bodies must end.

“The ‘respect’ that’s needed is for the exceptional talent ⁦Serena Williams brings to the game. Criticising what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies.”

The unpopular decision even prompted the WTA to announce a rule change of their own that year, permitting players to wear leggings and by extension, catsuits.

The 42-year-old recently reflected on the famous look in an interview with CNN Sports, where she admitted she could not have foreseen the drama that would later unfold.
She said: “I didn’t know it would have such an impact.

“Here I am, just trying to be healthy, I was a new mom and just trying to be me. It was a great moment. I didn’t know it would cause such a stir.”
Williams also the argued that more consideration should have been given to the health concerns that prompted her to dress this way.

She continued: “I love wearing skirts,”

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re like my favorite thing to wear, my tennis dresses, but I wanted to make sure that my blood was always circulating and I had been in a near-death experience.

“So I think there should have been and could have been – and whether there was or not, I was in it and I wasn’t getting out of it – understanding around that whole outfit.”
With Roland Garros’ only just around the corner, tennis fans will be hoping the game’s current stars take inspiration from Williams to showcase more bold fashion choices in Paris.

Interestingly, five of the game’s big stars have to go through qualifying to compete this year, including Williams’ sister, Venus along with Emma Raducanu, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

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