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Serena takes French Open catsuit ban in stride

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‘Gone too far’: Serena Williams in her black catsuit at Roland Garros this year
© AFP/File CHRISTOPHE SIMON

NEW YORK, USA, Aug 25 – Serena Williams downplayed any idea of friction between herself and the French Tennis Federation Saturday after Roland Garros chiefs described the “Black Panther” catsuit she wore at the French Open as “going too far”.

“I think that obviously the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said as she met reporters in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the US Open begins on Monday.

“I feel like if they know that some things are for health reasons, then there’s no way that they wouldn’t be OK with it.”

Williams will be vying to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles with a first Grand Slam victory since the birth of her daughter Olympia last September.

But the catsuit question was the first she faced.

The 36-year-old American star stunned Paris this year in her body-hugging outfit which she said was inspired by the “Black Panther” superhero movie and made her feel like a “warrior princess”.

As well as describing it as “fun and functional”, Williams insisted it helped her prevent a return of the blood clots which put her life in danger after giving birth last year.

However, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) insist that the outfit or anything similarly eye-catching will not be welcome at Roland Garros in 2019.

“I really believe that sometimes we have gone too far,” FFT president Bernard Giudicelli told Tennis Magazine in remarks reported by French media.

“The outfit of Serena this year, for example, will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.”

– ‘Everything’s fine’ –

Williams said she had already spoken to Giudicelli about the decision, saying he’d been “really amazing”.

“He’s been so easy to talk to,” Williams said. “My whole team is basically French so, yeah, we have a wonderful relationship. I’m sure we would come to an understanding and everything will be OK. It wouldn’t be a big deal … everything’s fine, guys.”

Williams indicated the catsuit wouldn’t feature in her US Open wardrobe. She’s set to wow New York with her new “Queen” collection for Nike designed with American stylist Virgil Abloh.

Abloh — artist, architect, friend of Kanye West and artistic director of Louis Vuitton — created two dresses for the court, one for the day in white and one for the night sessions in black.

“When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender,” Williams said, adding that she’d found “other methods” — namely compression tights — to combat blood clots.

“It will be awhile before this even has to come up again,” said Williams, who wasn’t surprised by the social media outcry in response to Giudicelli’s comments.

“Even if I tweet something, it can go viral, just a small tweet,” she said. “I just roll with it.”

Former US Open winner Andy Roddick was among those condemning the decision, tweeting: “This is so dumb and shortsighted it hurts. Sometimes it’d be nice if the sport got out of its own way.”

Nike responded to the ruling with a play on the “Black Panther” theme, posting on Instagram: “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”

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