French Open

Wakanda Forever: Serena Williams feels like a superhero in Black Panther-inspired bodysuit at French Open

The 23-time grand slam champion says skintight outfit is more than a fashion statement after reaching second round at Roland Garros

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 11:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 11:29am

Serena Williams considers the black bodysuit she wore at the French Open much more than a fashion statement.

There’s a practical reason for the full-length legs on the skintight outfit: the aim is to protect her because of past bouts with blood clots.

There also is a message she wanted to send about self-worth and feeling powerful as she returned to grand slam action with a first-round victory at Roland Garros, about nine months after giving birth to a daughter.

“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,” Williams said after beating Kristyna Pliskova 7-6(4), 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I definitely feel like it is an opportunity for me to inspire a whole different group of amazing women and kids.”

The outfit called to mind Williams’ black “catsuit” that she wore at the 2002 US Open. It also was reminiscent of the white bodysuit that American player Anne White wore at Wimbledon in 1985.

Williams referred to what she wore Tuesday as the “catsuit the new version, 2.0”.

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“I call it, like, my Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” referring to the fictional nation in the film Black Panther.

“We designed it way before the movie,” she said, “but still, it kind of reminds me of that”.

Williams said she feels “like a warrior princess, kind of” when she wears the outfit.

“I’m always living in a fantasy world,” she added. “I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero.”

Tuesday’s match was the first at a major tournament for the 23-time grand slam champion in 16 months.

She gave birth on September 1, then dealt with complications related to a pulmonary embolism.

“I had a lot of problems with my blood clots, and, God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So it is definitely a little functionality to it,” Williams said.

“I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going. It’s a fun suit, but it’s also functional, so I can be able to play without any problems.”

Maria Sharapova, a two-time French Open winner, progressed through three sets in a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.

“I had a really good start, and I feel like I got very impatient in the second set for not many reasons,” said the former world No 1.

“I finished out six straight games. I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it’s that way.”

Monday’s rain stoppage seemed to have refreshed Rafael Nadal, rather than unsettle him, as he sprinted back into the match with a quick break on his way to levelling the scores at 3-3 before a tie-break was forced.

The 16-time grand slam champion was 5-2 down, but his trusted trademark forehand helped him save four set points and fight back to 6-6.

“I know that I have to do something to save the situation,” Nadal said. “I go to my limits, and sometimes you can play harder than others. Sometimes you overcome complicated situations.”

An incredible pass afforded Nadal two chances to complete the match and a netted return from Bolelli finalised the scores at 11-9.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov defeated Australian John Millman, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 to move on to round two and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, seeded sixth, beat Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, while Britain’s Kyle Edmund swept past Alex De Minaur 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

In the women’s draw, seventh seed Caroline Garcia breezed through with a 6-1, 6-0 win over China’s Duan Yingying.

Garbine Muguruza, who won the French Open in 2016, cruised past two-time Australian Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6(0), 6-2.

“[It] was a very difficult first round,” Murguruza said. “I think Svetlana is an expert in clay and here, and I’m happy because it’s going to help me a lot, I think, this match.”