NEW YORK — Serena Williams killed the catsuit controversy that threw the tennis world into a tizzy in a few short sentences Saturday morning in a pretournament news conference at the U.S. Open.
Responding to French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli’s quotes in Tennis Magazine that the catsuit she wore at Roland Garros at this year’s French Open would be banned at the tournament in the future, Williams cited her good relationship with Giudicelli and gave Grand Slams the benefit of the doubt when it comes to player health.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion said part of the reason she wore the catsuit at the French Open — an outfit she dedicated to mothers returning from “tough pregnancy” — was to help with her long-standing issue of blood clots.
“I think that obviously, the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do,” Williams said Saturday. “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 okay with it. So I think it’s fine. The president of the French Federation, he’s been really amazing. He’s been so easy to talk to. My whole team is basically French, so, yeah, we have a wonderful relationship.”
Giudicelli’s quotes originally stirred controversy because they implied that Williams’s outfit was disrespectful to tennis and the French Open. He said the tournament will be instituting a new dress code starting next year, and that Williams’s catsuit will be on the banned list because “I think sometimes we’ve gone too far,” Giudicelli said.
“It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place,” he said, per the Associated Press.
The comments sparked comments from the likes of Andy Roddick and Williams’s agent, Jill Smoller. Nike, Williams’s longtime sponsor who made the catsuit, referenced her “Black Panther”-inspired comments during the French Open that the outfit made her feel “like a warrior princess … a queen from Wakanda.”
Others connected Giudicelli’s comments to the policing of black bodies, sexism in tennis and unfair discussions of Williams’s appearance that have existed since she turned pro.
When asked if she understood what Giudicelli might have meant when he spoke about respect, Williams demurred.
“I don’t know exactly what he seemed to say or what he didn’t seem to say or what. We already talked. Like I said, we have a great relationship. We talked yesterday, yeah. Everything’s fine, guys,” Williams laughed.
The six-time U.S. Open champion made it clear that the catsuit won’t make a return appearance in New York when the year’s final Grand Slam starts Monday.
“When it comes to fashion,” Williams said with a smile, “You don’t want to be a repeat offender.”
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