PARIS – Serena Williams’ comeback cat suit will make its third appearance of this French Open Thursday.
After being a winning suit in both her first-round singles and doubles matches, Agence France-Presse reported that a Nike spokesperson confirms she will wear it for her second-round match against No. 17 seed Ashleigh Barty.
But it’s not without its controversy – something Nike almost seems to enjoy courting for the extra exposure it brings.
With the cat suit, though, there are other issues.
Williams spoke of the medical benefits of wearing it in response to a question by ESPN’s Bonnie Ford – in addition to the statement she wants to make. But it’s not going unnoticed by the other players that Williams may have gotten a free pass on the rules.
(It’s likely that Williams can make the case that, because of her ongoing and significant issue with blood clots, the compression component of the suit was necessarily medically – or at least helpful. That’s called a great loophole!)
Russian Aussie Arina Rodionova wondered.
Nothing against Serena's outfit, looks pretty cool actually. But just wondering how is that allowed by the rules if we only allowed to wear legging until the middle of the calf the longest, and ALWAYS have to wear skirt/shorts on top of the leggings.Were there any rules changes?
— Arina Rodionova (@arinarodionova) May 30, 2018
Rodionova’s fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva was on the same page.
And they both were raked over the coals – with people making it personal – for even daring to question it.
Yes and no. You can’t argue a referee that deams your leggings inappropriate tennis attire. A little different position for the GOAT with a sports management and clothing giants by your side. https://t.co/W0WVsArUF2
— Alla Kudryavtseva (@AllaK11) May 30, 2018
I think you are missing the point. “Appropriate tennis attire” is a relative term and trust me, you wouldn’t argue with a referee who claims your attire is not appropriate. https://t.co/QNTYyvkXaU
— Alla Kudryavtseva (@AllaK11) May 31, 2018
Williams’s first-round opponent, Kristyna Pliskova, was equally unsure.
“I was wondering if it was in the rules. I don’t even know what material it is, it looks like neoprene,” she said. “They should follow the rules, otherwise play in the nude!”
(And no, Pliskova did not attribute the loss to Williams on what the American was wearing).
Serena is used to making waves on the fashion front. Two years ago in Australia, it was the “crop top”.
“Appropriate tennis attire”
The rules, as stated, define certain things as “inappropriate” like jean cutoffs, T-shirts and gym shorts. But that list isn’t exhaustive. The interpretation of the rule seems to be up to the supervisors, in the end.
At Wimbledon, for example, there are very strict rules. Players have been told to change their attire for reasons as varied as non-white running shoe sole (Roger Federer), a headband with the official Wimbledon logo (Nick Kyrgios), a black lace bra under her shirt (Genie Bouchard) and, on several occasions, having the underneath of their visor not be white.
Anne White looked amazing in her cat suit years ago. But it wasn’t legal.
And, per the specific Roland Garros rules (right), you could certainly argue that a cat suit is neither being dressed “in a professional manner”, nor is it “customarily acceptable tennis attire”.
The players who have noted the instances where supervisors have made it restrictive and complicated to cover up a little on cooler days are being straight up.
They also understand that there are “different rules” for the superstars compared to the rank and file.
If anything, they can use it as evidence that exceptions can be made, the next time they want to keep warm with leggings.
Because no one is going to prevent Serena Williams from wearing it, that’s for sure!