Tennis great Serena Williams won her first-round U.S. Open match on Monday, August 27, and did so in grand fashion. She beat Magda Linette of Poland in straight sets 6-4, 6-0 while rocking a one-shoulder dress with a tutu-like skirt.
The statement-making look came just days after French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli singled out Williams for the black compression catsuit she debuted at the French Open in May. “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” Giudicelli said in Tennis Magazine. “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”
But Williams’ Nike-designed, Black Panther-inspired suit was more function than fashion, created as a potentially life-saving tool to help the tennis great avoid blood clots by improving her blood circulation. Williams had said she suffered from blood clots during her pregnancy — the French Open appearance marked the 36-year-old’s triumphant return to tennis after giving birth to her daughter.
The outfit also spoke to her status as sports royalty. “I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess, a queen from Wakanda, maybe,” Williams said of the catsuit.
This isn’t the first time a woman has donned a one-piece bodysuit for the game. Anne White donned an all-white version in Wimbledon 1985 and there was no talk of banning then. But, Giudicelli’s remarks follow an ongoing trend of what many perceive as body shaming the icon for her physique and her Blackness.
Williams, however, took the critique in stride. “When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender,” she jokingly said during a press conference Monday. The six-time U.S. Open champion then went on to create yet another fashion moment while beating 68th-ranked Linette, improving her record to 18-0 in U.S. Open first-round matches.
Williams is set to face Carina Witthoeft of Germany in the second-round match on August 29. For more info and a schedule, go to www.usopen.org.