‘Queen’ Serena averts upset in another fashion statement
When Serena Williams plays at the French Open, she seems to generate more comment through her wardrobe and her gender politics than she does with her tennis. That was the case again yesterday, despite her spirited comeback to beat Vitalia Diatchenko in three sets.
Twelve months ago, Williams made headlines across the world when she arrived on Court Philippe Chatrier in a black catsuit, which she said had been inspired by the fictional kingdom of Wakanda. The outfit was later criticised by Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French tennis federation, who said he thought it inappropriate and would be instigating a dress code in future.
So there was plenty of attention on Williams yesterday when she came out in a black-andwhite poncho that she later removed to display a crop top and flared skirt. As she explained later: “On the outfit it has words in French, and it says ‘Queen’, it says ‘Champion’, and it says ‘Mom’. Those are things that mean a lot to me and [they are] a reminder … just to remind everyone that they, you know, can be champions and are queens.”
Williams was asked whether the fourth word on her clothing – Deesse, which translates to “goddess” – was a heavy weight to carry. “Yeah, it is a lot to carry,” she said regally. “But so is being Serena Williams.”
As for the gender politics, Nike said this week that it would in future ensure it kept paying the same fees to its contracted female athletes for 12 months when they become pregnant, even though they will miss performance-related targets in that time.
Yesterday Williams – who is the face of a Nike campaign encouraging women to “dream crazier” – supported the move.
“I’m glad that statement was made,” said Williams, who stepped off the tour in February 2017 because she was pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia. “It’s about learning from mistakes. It started with making a statement with me. They want to support women who want to have families. I feel like as the world changes, people realise we have to change our policies.”
Williams said she had been nervous and heavy-footed at the start of her match. But after stamping her foot and letting out a scream of frustration early in the second set, she raised her level, reeling off the final nine games for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 win.
In the other matches on Court Philippe Chatrier, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both swept through in straight sets.
But 13th seed Caroline Wozniacki, who took to the court with a calf heavily strapped, went out to Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.
New look: Serena Williams caused a stir in her outfit