Serena Williams Shrugs Off Catsuit Concerns

Serena Williams Shrugs Off Catsuit Concerns

Serena Williams on Saturday defended the president of the French Tennis Federation, who faced a backlash after saying he intended to ban outfits like the form-fitting catsuit Williams wore in this year’s French Open.

Williams said she spoke on Friday with the president, Bernard Giudicelli, who recently told France’s Tennis Magazine that he would introduce a dress code at Roland Garros because “one must respect the game and place.”

After several supporters in tennis and outside the game objected to Giudicelli’s decision as disrespectful to Williams, she told reporters that she was not concerned.

“The president of the French Federation, he’s been amazing,” Williams said at a United States Open news conference, adding, “We have a wonderful relationship.”

Williams has said the catsuit had helped protect her from blood clots that had complicated her recovery from childbirth last year. The French Open was her first Grand Slam appearance after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian. A month later at Wimbledon, Williams instead wore compression tights to keep her blood circulating.

“I’ve since found other methods,” said Williams, explaining that the catsuit would not be in evidence at the United States Open. “When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender.”

Williams also said that she was confident that any tournament director would allow exceptions to a dress code if health considerations were involved.

Her comments followed rebukes to Giudicelli from athletes such as the former tennis stars Billie Jean King and Andy Roddick. “The policing of women’s bodies must end,” King said on Twitter, where Roddick wrote that the ban was “so dumb and shortsighted it hurts.”

Nike, which sponsors Williams, posted a tweet that referred to the fact that she had said that the catsuit had made her feel like a superhero “queen from Wakanda,” the fictional nation in the film “Black Panther.”

The post had a message superimposed over a photograph of Williams in the catsuit: “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”

Williams, who turns 37 in late September, will begin seeking her seventh United States Open singles title on Monday, when she faces Magda Linette of Poland, who is ranked 60th in the world. Williams said she had no idea how difficult her path at Flushing Meadows could be until a reporter told her.

With an upgraded seeding to No. 17 from her world ranking of No. 26, she could face her sister Venus, the 16th seed, in the third round. She could then meet top-seeded Simona Halep, this year’s French Open champion, in the round of 16.

The last time Serena Williams played in the United States Open, she lost in the semifinals in 2016 to 10th-seeded Karolina Pliskova despite holding the No. 1 world ranking. The year before, again as the world No. 1, she was upset in the semis by unranked Roberta Vinci.

Williams is also seeking her 24th major singles championship, which would tie the record held by Margaret Court. She was the runner-up at Wimbledon last month, losing to Angelique Kerber, but she has won just one of her three hardcourt summer matches. The Open is her seventh tournament since her return from maternity leave.

“I feel like everything is just different in terms of I’m living a different life,” Williams said about her return to Flushing Meadows as a parent. “If anything, I have more fire in my belly. It’s very difficult to describe. I thought, after having a child, I would be more relaxed, but I’m not. I work just as hard, if not harder, actually. That’s been really surprising for me.”

If Williams has learned one thing over the last year, she said, it was to be a little less self-critical.

“I feel like I have to be nice to myself,” she said, adding: “That’s the message I’ve been preaching to women and people. You have to face those obstacles. Whether you get through them or not, there’s always another chance.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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