This week, Serena Williams returned to the Australian Open, a tournament in which she last competed when she was eight weeks pregnant. And the kit she wore to defeat opponent Tatjana Maria was, as you might expect, as powerful as the black catsuit she wore for her first major match after having a baby. Dressed in a bright aqua catsuit complete with black fishnet tights, which Williams reportedly designed alongside Nike, part of the drama of the ensemble lay in the reveal: Williams walked on to court in a short black trench coat (despite sweltering temperatures) only to send the crowd into a frenzy when she took it off, debuting her Nike leotard.
Speaking at a press conference after the match, Williams joked that a name for her new outfit could be the “Serena-tard”. She explained her choice of outfit, saying, “I have been working really, really hard in the offseason to be incredibly fit and incredibly ready,” adding, “Nike always wants to make an incredibly strong, powerful statement for mums that are trying to get back and get fit. That was basically it for me.”
Her defiant attitude is exactly the example we all need to see
Since becoming a mum, Williams has spoken a lot about the pressure, both mental and physical, that she’s felt to get back to her best. She’s spoken, too, about how her outfit on court directly affects her mindset. Commenting on the black catsuit that she wore for the French Open, she said at the time: “It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically, with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves.” She said that the suit made her feel “like a warrior wearing it, a queen from Wakanda” and noted its important functional role in aiding her health post-giving birth: “I had a lot of problems with my blood clots [...] I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going.”
WIlliams has faced criticism for her defiant outfit choices. She made headlines, for example, after tennis officials made moves to ban her catsuits, with Bernard Giudicelli, French Tennis Federation president, pledging to introduce a dress code. “I believe we have sometimes gone too far,” he said. “Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.” Shortly after these comments were made, Williams arrived at the US Open in a custom tutu designed by Virgil Abloh for Nike, complete with a leather jacket. Of course, Williams is so much more than what she wears on court. But her defiant attitude when faced with (mostly) men telling her what she should or shouldn’t be wearing when she’s performing her job as one of the world’s greatest athletes is exactly the example we all need to see.