How Serena Williams transformed tennis fashion

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Over a career which has stretched to more than a quarter of a century, Serena Williams’s on-court outfits were often as eye-catching as her tennis. AFP Sport looks at 10 of the best worn by the 23-time Grand Slam title winner:

2002: Catsuit, not wet suit

Serena Williams after defeating Venus Williams during their women’s final match at the 2002 US Open. (AFP)

When Williams won her second US Open in 2002, she did it dressed in a Lycra catsuit. It dominated large parts of her opening round press conference where some reporters were bemused.

“Great outfit. Does it come with flippers, mask and snorkel?”

“Of course not,” fired back the American. “This is more of a cat suit. It’s not a wet suit. A wet suit has long sleeves and it’s usually longer and thicker material.

“This is made of Lycra. It’s supposed to have the illusion of looking a little bit like leather from a distance. But it’s made of Lycra because it kind of sticks to the body. It kind of really sticks to what type of shape you have. If you don’t have a decent shape, this isn’t the best outfit to have.”

2004: In the Paris pink

Serena Williams during the French Open 2004 in Paris. (AFP)

Williams appeared at Roland Garros in a bright pink two-piece outfit designed by Nike. Her headband was emblazoned with the letter ‘S’ while her crop-top revealed a belly button stud.

2004: Biker girl in black leather

Serena Williams during a match at the 2004 US Open. (AFP)

Williams’s initial dilemma was whether or not she would be allowed to play at the US Open in knee-high boots rather than tennis shoes. “You can wear them while you’re playing, I’m sure,” she said before removing them.

“It’s like a rebel-look, when I’m being really rebellious. I’m just doing things different with the black and the studs. I’m just being a rebel. So maybe I would start out with something like, ‘Serena’s going rebel without a cause’.”

2005: Green machine

Serena Williams celebrates her victory over Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar in their women’s singles second round match at the 2005 Australian Open. (AFP)

An outfit described as “neon green”, Williams also wore multi-coloured knee-high socks at the Australian Open in Melbourne But it was her dress that left the biggest impression.

“It’s so flowy and it’s very sheer, very see through. Any shorter wouldn’t be appropriate, so we definitely went with a longer length. I love how it just pops up and down.”

2008: Game, set, mac!

Serena Williams prepares to play against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in a Ladies Singles Quarter-Final match during the 2008 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Tennis Club in south-west London. (AFP)

Serena lost the 2008 Wimbledon final to sister Venus but made a statement when she arrived on Centre Court at the start of the tournament wearing a white trench coat. “I don’t think it’s going to keep the rain away but we can always hope. I absolutely love trench coats,” she explained. Britain’s
Daily Express captioned the moment: ‘Game, Set and Mac, Miss Williams.’

2014: Leopard print curve ball

Serena Williams (left) and sister Venus examine the championship trophy after winning the women’s doubles championship over Cara Black, of Zimbabwe, and Liezel Huber, of the United States, at the 2009 US Open tennis tournament in New York. (AP)

Pink leopard print for day matches, black for the night at the 2008 US Open. Nike called it: “The fierce Nike Serena Dress.” Fellow player Elena Vesnina told USA Today: “She’s trying to show her curves. That’s a good thing, you’re showing the best part of your body and you’re covering some kind of things that you don’t want to show. Serena looks really good in it.”

2018: Superhero and a warrior?

Serena Williams during the women’s singles second round match at French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (AFP)

One of her most controversial outfits was her black catsuit unveiled at Roland Garros. “I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess from Wakanda,” said Serena, in reference to the hit movie, Black Panther. “I’ve always wanted to be a superhero.”

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The French Open, however, took a dim view and banned it at future events with French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli insisting: “One must respect the game and the place.”

2018: Tennis in a tutu

Serena Williams during her Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan at the US Open. (AFP)

After the French Open ban, the American appeared at Flushing Meadows in a black tutu dress. The top of the costume had one long sleeve while the right-hand side was sleeveless.

“It’s easy to play in. Kind of aerodynamic with the one arm free. It feels really good. Yeah, the tutu is easy to play in because I practiced in it before. That was fun,” she said.

2021: Salute to Flo Jo

Serena Williams hits a return against Japan’s Naomi Osaka during their women’s singles semi-final match on Day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. (AFP)

At Melbourne Park, the American wore a brightly-coloured red, pink and black one-piece outfit with just the right leg covered. It was, she said, a tribute to late US sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner.

“FloJo was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up. Well, watching her fashion, just always changing, her outfits were always amazing,” explained Williams.

2021: Train of thought at Wimbledon

Serena Williams during the women’s singles first round match on the second day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon. (AFP)

Williams appeared on court with a removable white train. Her fashion statement, however, was quickly forgotten when she was forced to retire from her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich with a right leg injury after just six games.

“Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on, and off, the court meant the world to me,” she said in a statement.

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