Sunday 20 October 2019

Serena Williams wins at French Open as she credits her 'Wakanda Catsuit'

Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during her first round match against Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during her first round match against Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Serena Williams acknowledges the crowd after yesterday’s victory over Kristyna Pliskova in the first round of the French Open. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Briggs at Roland Garos

'Supermum' Serena Williams made a winning return to the court in Paris, wearing a lycra bodysuit that she admitted had been inspired by a Marvel movie.

Williams is the only woman in the draw who features in her own HBO documentary series, Being Serena, and yesterday she more than justified her billing.

It wasn't just her tennis - which was just about good enough to drag her over the line against world No. 70 Kristyna Pliskova at the French Open first round - but the styling and an entertaining press conference in which she addressed everything from a new mother's conflicting pressures to drinking games at the royal wedding.

In the end, her daring fashion statement ended up causing more comment than anything else.

"Catsuit anyone?" she wrote on her Twitter page after her 7-6, 6-4 victory. "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!!"

The black, shiny, skin-tight outfit looked like a superhero uniform and recalled the controversy that surrounded Anne White's Wimbledon catsuit back in 1985.

"I call it like my Wakanda-inspired cat suit," Williams said, in a reference to the blockbuster movie Black Panther.

Yet this was not a purely sartorial decision, as she revealed that the compression element of the garment is important for her circulation.

Tennis insiders had previously noted that, in every photograph taken since Williams had started training again, she was wearing tight leggings.

Some had privately speculated that she might be covering up knee problems, but Williams exploded this theory last night.

Blood clots

"I had a lot of problems with my blood clots," she said. "God, I don't know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So there is definitely a little functionality to it.

"I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going. It's a fun suit, but it's also functional so I can be able to play without any problems."

It wasn't the quality of Williams's tennis that mattered yesterday, more the fact that she is back in the mix, almost a year-and-a-half after she claimed the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

She struck her bread-and-butter groundstrokes with depth and conviction, and covered the corners surprisingly well. But she was slow to move forward and lacked touch on any shot that required improvisation.

She also struggled to read her opponent's swinging lefty serve - a major factor in Pliskova's tally of 15 aces.

Williams has not always been the most forthcoming of interviewees when it comes to post-match analysis. But yesterday she positively beamed her way through the questions, dispensing wisdom and gossip with equal enthusiasm. On this evidence, motherhood must be agreeing with her.

Asked about the challenges she has faced since the birth of Olympia, she replied "You have to get your core back, which is hard, because it literally spreads when you have a baby. And just coming back from the physical [side] of having a baby, at my age, is never really easy.

Other questions involved the royal wedding, which Williams attended with her husband, the internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian.

"It was really exciting to see so much African-American culture impacted in the wedding," she said. "I was really happy that Meghan wanted to incorporate that into it.

"But there was no beer pong," Williams added, in relation to reports that guests at the reception played a popular drinking game in which you throw ping pong balls towards other people's glasses, obliging them to gulp down any drink with a ball in it.


"I don't even drink beer," Williams added. "I don't know where this story came out. It's not even remotely true."

Maria Sharapova lost six games in-a-row and then won the next six as she got her return to Roland Garros off to a successful start by beating Holland's Richel Hogenkamp 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza got the better of Svetlana Kuznetsova in a first-round meeting of two former winners.

After a 90-minute rain interruption at 5-5 in the first set Muguruza, the 2016 winner, blew 2009 champion Kuznetsova away in the tie-break and went on to win 7-6 (7/0) 6-2.

Rafael Nadal's latest Roland Garros campaign is up and running after a straight-sets - but far from straightforward - 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (11/9) win over Simone Bolelli.

  • French Open, Eurosport 1, 11.0/ITV4, 9.30

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