Serena Williams has taken down Polish opponent Magda Linette in straight sets at the US Open this month. Serena has advanced to the next round of the competition and will face a potential showdown against big sister Venus Williams. After an outstanding run at the French Open earlier this month, Williams is looking to continue advancing as she returns to competitive playing after giving birth last year.
You would think that a woman returning to competitive sport after having a baby, and winning in straight sets, would be enough to satisfy the media.
But a more pressing issue has taken precedence.
Williams is being criticised for her outfits again, and this is living proof of why we can’t have nice things. The French Open has tightened regulations on uniforms after the world number 17 turned up to a match for the Roland Garros in a black “catsuit”. French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli banned the suit after Williams’ appearance, saying that players must “respect the game and the place”.
Williams took to the court in the body suit, which was designed to help with blood circulation. The tennis champ suffered complications with blood clots after giving birth to daughter, Olympia. The suit was made out of compression fabric to prevent any life-threatening blood clots. Williams wore the suit not only to assist with circulation and prevent further medical issues, but to inspire mothers, saying it made her feel like a “warrior” and a “superhero”.
What it was about Williams’ outfit that was “disrespectful” is yet to be clarified.
Unsurprisingly, Giudicelli was absolutely slammed for the regulation change. Claims of sexism, elitism, and misogyny have followed the president since announcing the ban of the bodysuit.
Fellow tennis professional and former world number 1 Victoria Azarenka spoke out in favour of her friend and competitor.
“You know, the things with the catsuit, I personally don’t understand it. No idea what [that] means disrespecting the game playing in the catsuit? There is always a double standard for men and women. But we need to push those barriers.”
This is not the first time a female tennis players has received unnecessary repercussions relating to their outfits. French player Alize Cornet received a code violation after removing her shirt on the court at the US Open. The player changed her shirt in a ten minute break during her match against Johanna Larson, before returning to the court and realising her shirt was inside out. She was issued with the violation when she removed and adjusted her shirt on court before play.
In true Serena Williams fashion, the Grand Slam champion did not hit back at Giudicelli, insisting that they still had a good relationship. Williams retaliated by wearing a tutu on court for her match against Linette.
The outfit was made in a collaboration between Nike and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh, aptly named ‘The Queen Collection’. Abloh shared an image on Instagram shortly after Williams debuted the outfit, with one simple statement for the caption:
“Willing to design dresses for her for life”.
The most frustrating thing is that this takes away from Williams’ achievements on the court. A Google search of Serena Williams and the US Open generates results about her outfits – not her successes. In yet another case of female athletes being degraded for their choices instead of praised for their achievements, Williams has had her accomplishments downgraded by an anti-progressive official who is now facing more backlash for the bodysuit than the woman who wore it.
If anything good is to come from this, there’s hope that this situation will set a precedent for the future, and that female athletes will be able to earn some recognition regardless of their fashion choices.