Not only did Serena Williams look exceedingly cool in her black catsuit, it was also a medical necessity to prevent her from developing blood clots.
And so fans were understandably surprised when the 36-year-old tennis star was prohibited from wearing the outfit – which had made her feel like a ‘warrior princess’ – at next year’s French Open.
Serena returned to Grand Slam tennis at the 2018 French Open, following the birth of her daughter, Olympia. She wore the striking catsuit during each of the first three rounds, dedicating it to other new mothers like herself.
Speaking at Roland Garros back in May, Serena said the ‘fun’ suit made her feel like ‘a queen from Wakanda’, noting, ‘I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero’.
The ban on Serena’s comfortable, yet empowering catsuit, is reportedly part of a wider initiative to enforce a tighter dress code.
French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, made the following statement to France’s Tennis magazine:
We are going to nonetheless ask the manufacturers to let us know what [outfits are] coming,
I believe we have sometimes gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.
Although Giudicelli did not detail what these new rules would be, he has said they will be less restrictive than at Wimbledon, where all-white outfits are compulsory.
#SerenaWilliams i dont see anything wrong with her catsuit as long as she is comfortable
— Tshegofatso Mahlare (@Olivetshego) August 25, 2018
Do these people know that Serena Williams is tennis? That woman took a break from tennis and we all took a break too. We watch it for her, most of us don’t even understand the game, we just tune in because #SerenaWilliams is playing. Put some damn respect on her name. pic.twitter.com/x0rgpNVXnn
— Bennylewd (@bennylewd) August 25, 2018
Get this! French sports officialdom celebrates black people winning the men’s World Cup for France but then very quickly change and attack black woman tennis champion #SerenaWilliams’ attire, showing their racism, discrimination and ongoing attacks on black sportswomen’s bodies pic.twitter.com/8MLFTpHDF5
— cheryl roberts (@cherylroberts00) August 25, 2018
According to Tennis magazine, Serena has since affirmed her ‘strong relationship’ with the French Tennis Federation and has now spoken with Giudicelli:
I think that obviously the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do.
I feel like if and when, or if they know that some things are for health reasons, then there’s no way that they wouldn’t be OK with it. So I think it’s fine.
The idea that Serena Williams' catsuit signals she doesn't respect the game of tennis is ridiculous for a number reasons, but especially because her catsuit wasn't unprecedented. Anne White wore a catsuit back in 1985 at Wimbledon. pic.twitter.com/ekAzc9k1De
— Nadra Nittle (@NadraKareem) August 24, 2018
For the record, Serena Williams wasn’t the first woman to wear a catsuit at a Grand Slam. Anne White did it in 1985 at the US Open. They knew this was a possibility but didn’t ban it until Serena did it for MEDICAL REASONS. pic.twitter.com/0GyDbKnhEO
— Mizzly (@mizzlywizz) August 24, 2018
Serena reportedly nearly died while giving birth due to blood clots, and many tennis fans have been left disappointed by the decision.
Surgeon and scientist, Eugene Wu tweeted:
Having had multiple pulmonary embolisms, Serena Williams is not allowed to use a specially designed black catsuit that helps prevents blood clots from developing in the legs.
Because the French Open doesn’t like how it looks. That’s racist, sexist, and dangerous.
Journalism professor Christian Christenson remarked:
Imagine if Maria Sharapova turned up to the French Open in a white version of this. Ban it? They would love it.
Having had multiple pulmonary embolisms, Serena Williams is not allowed to use a specially designed black catsuit that helps prevents blood clots from developing in the legs. Because the French Open doesn’t like how it looks. That’s racist, sexist, and dangerous.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) August 24, 2018
According the French Open organizers, this catsuit that Serena Williams wore this year is 'inappropriate' so they've banned it. Ja no, being black and excellent is tough ?
It literally has her entire body covered. pic.twitter.com/NgplF4hdMf
— Zweli Mbhele ?? (@TheZweli) August 24, 2018
the serena williams catsuit ban is racist.
i'm not looking to debate this as i am tired of debating absolutes.
— Molly Priddy (@mollypriddy) August 24, 2018
— emily simeral roberts (@emsimrob) August 24, 2018
I thought @serenawilliams looked sensational wearing her catsuit at French Open this year. A real advert for powerful women, absolute warrior and now somebody deems this outfit will not be tolerated in the future. Tennis needs to watch out not to trip itself up #Serena pic.twitter.com/DX8o2yab2a
— Kris Soutar (@KStennisjournal) August 25, 2018
— Christian Christensen (@ChrChristensen) August 24, 2018
Now, Nike have come forward in support of the iconic sportswoman, and their response is receiving plenty of praise.
Sharing a powerful black and white picture of the 23 Grand Slam singles title holder in action, Nike tweeted:
You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.
The photograph in question shows Serena in the striking black suit, and there’s no question Nike are referring to Giudicelli’s comments.
— Nike (@Nike) August 25, 2018
Even without the suit, Serena’s still an absolute superhero who’s been a constant source of inspiration to young people looking to excel in the sporting arena.
I for one cannot wait to see what outfit this absolute legend opts for next year.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.