She’s baaaaaaack. ... Serena Williams on Tuesday proved her bounce-back complete after the difficult birth of baby Alexis Olympia by winning her first grand-slam match at this year’s French Open, beating Czech opponent Kristýna Plíšková 7-6(4), 6-4.
And she did it in Black Panther-worthy style, with the hip-length braids she rocked at the recent royal wedding coiled into a regal topknot, and wearing a short-sleeved, full-length black bodysuit with a red waistband co-designed with her sponsor Nike. Williams told the Associated Press that she felt “like a warrior princess, kind of” while wearing it:
I call it, like, my Wakanda-inspired catsuit. ... We designed it way before the movie, but still, it kind of reminds me of that. ... I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero.
Williams is certainly a superhero in our estimation, not only for winning 23 grand-slam titles—her last while pregnant—but for working on her 24th within a year of the life-threatening delivery of her first child, during which she suffered a pulmonary embolism that was nearly overlooked by hospital staff.
Which leads us to the more practical aspect of Williams’ jumpsuit; far beyond being one of the on-court style statements for which she’s well-known, the compression of the suit is intended to protect her from forming more blood clots, which she’s unfortunately continued to experience, telling AP:
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. ... 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.
Williams’ caution is understandable: Tuesday’s match marked her first major tournament in 16 months after withdrawing from both the Madrid and Italian opens in early May because she needed more time to be “100 percent ready to compete.” However triumphant, she’s not taking her return to the court lightly, and in part, the jumpsuit represents her fight back to the top of her game, as she told AP:
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 ... I definitely feel like it is an opportunity for me to inspire a whole different group of amazing women and kids.