PARIS (AP) — “Champion,” “queen,” “goddess” and “mother.”
Those were the words, in French, printed on a black-and-white warmup jacket that Serena Williams wore before her opening match at Roland Garros on Monday.
“Those are things that mean a lot to me and reminders for me and for everyone that wants to wear it,” Williams said. “Just remind everyone that they can be champions and are queens. So I love that about it.
“It is a lot to carry, but so is being Serena Williams,” said Williams, who made her return to Grand Slam competition in Paris a year ago after missing five majors because of the birth of her first child.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion took off the jacket before the match and played in a matching two-piece outfit.
Later in the match on a cool and windy day on Court Philippe Chatrier, Williams put on a plain black sweatshirt.
Williams said the mid-match outfit change didn’t have anything to do with the temperature, though.
“No, I’m just crazy, to be honest. I think everyone knows that now,” she said after overcoming a slow start for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory over 83rd-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko. “I just needed to change. I was like: ‘I’ve got to try something different. It’s not my forehand, it’s my clothes; right?'”
Just like when Williams often changes her hairstyle mid-match into a bun.
“Because it’s definitely not my serve. It must be my hair,” she said. “It makes no sense. So it’s all in my head.”
Williams’ on-court fashion choices have drawn attention for much of her career.
Last year, French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli said the black catsuit with clot-preventing compression tights that Williams wore during the 2018 French Open wouldn’t be accepted again at the tournament.
Williams also addressed an announcement last week by Nike, her sponsor, that it will better respect the contracts of athletes who become pregnant.
The move came in response to articles published in The New York Times in which current and former Nike-sponsored runners — including six-time Olympic champion Allyson Felix — described financial penalties that Nike athletes faced if they wanted to have children.
“It started with making a statement with me, and they said they want to make a change,” Williams said. “They want to support women that want to have families and that want to be moms. I’m glad that statement was made. … That’s what it’s about. It’s about learning from mistakes and doing better.
“As time goes on, as technology changes and as the world changes,” she added. “People realize that we have to change our policies.”