The French Open courted controversy in August last year, when it banned Serena Williams from wearing her catsuit at this year’s tournament.
And on Tuesday at the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne, the American tennis champion had a defiant message for her critics when she stepped out onto the court in a figure-hugging green Nike bodysuit and black fishnet stockings.
The 37-year-old’s custom-made ensemble sparked something of a firestorm on Twitter, with many people praising her for her fashion-forward look, while others criticized her for flouting traditions that still influence what is considered appropriate on-court attire.
Eye-catching fashion: Serena Williams, 37, caused mixed reactions as she sported a revealing green Lycra jumpsuit at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Tuesday
Body-hugging: In the match she won against Germany’s Tatjana Maria, the 23-time Grand Slam winner took to centre court in the sleeveless green lycra jumpsuit by Nike
Design: The jumpsuit featured black and white panels across the bust and waist
The mother-of-one was also met with a few more risque comments about her outfit, with some choosing to share rather unsavory thoughts about her appearance in a handful of lewd tweets.
Serena chose the skin-tight look for her first-round centre court 6-0, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Tatjana Maria, and it certainly helped her to stand out on the court.
The boldly-colored sleeveless bodysuit featured black and white piping down the front and round the waist, and the tight shorts hit at the top of the player’s thighs, allowing her to show off her athletic, fishnet-clad legs to the world.
A peephole design at the back added an extra bit of flair to the on-court look, while Serena finished off the look with a pair of black-and-red Nike shoes that had matching green soles.
And for some, the outfit could not have been more of a hit.
Within mere minutes of Serena stepping out on the court, Twitter users were sharing messages of support and praise for the 23-time Grand Slam winner, celebrating her for choosing to model such a unique and stylish look.
‘Loving @serenawilliams outfit. She’s giving me #AussieRules meets SuperHero. Stunning. Feisty. A winner,’ wrote one.
Another followed with: ‘I’m living for Serena Williams outfit that she is wearing for the Aus Open today. So fab.’
Skimpy: The hemline finished at mid-thigh, revealing her fit and toned figure
Peek-a-boo: The bodysuit featured a triangular cut-out at the back, that no doubt served as an excellent form of ventilation, while also providing an extra bit of fashionable flair to the outfit
Popular: Many Australian Open viewers took to Twitter to praise Serena for her bold choice of attire, with one person describing the vibrant look as ‘bangin’
‘That outfit is bangin!!! And perfect for the weather!!’ one also said, referencing the soaring temperatures in Australia at the time of play.
Even Serena’s husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, couldn’t resist praising his wife’s look on Twitter, writing: ‘I’m here for the romper,’ while adding the emoji of a pair of eyes for extra effect.
However, while the look struck a positive note with hundreds of people online, it also prompted some criticism from some who deemed it ‘distasteful’ and inappropriate.
‘Serena, you can’t wear this on a tennis court!’ one person insisted, while another chimed in: ‘Serena has all the money in the world and can NEVER wear suitable tennis clothing. Another FAIL outfit!
‘Add that to her unsportsmanlike behaviour at US Open gives me reason to not watch her matches. There is always another match on other channel!’
‘She talks about #sexism and is wearing an outfit you only see in bars with red lights… disgusting,’ another piped up.
A few people even urged all of the sport’s governing bodies to follow in the footsteps of the French Open and implement stricter rules regarding what can and can’t be worn on the court.
Backlash: There were some who felt that Serena’s skin-tight look was unsuited to such a prestigious sporting event – and they were more than happy to share their distaste online
Lookalike: A few people joked about Serena’s look, with one person comparing her to the green Power Ranger, while others made rather lewd suggestions about her
Ace? Serena herself shared this photo of her look on Instagram, prompting another round of comments from followers
‘I don’t understand the appreciation over Serena Williams’ outfit,’ one such person commented. ‘Truly undeserved. The governing body needs to set clear rules over attire.’
Other people cruelly took the chance to share negative comments about Serena’s body, with one writing: ‘OMG, just tuned in to your 1st round match and saw your outfit. Do [you] own a mirror?
‘Lose some weight, try a few salads or [Weight Watchers].’
A few people expressed their thoughts about Serena’s look in more suggestive posts, with one particularly enthusiastic viewer saying: ‘Serena Williams in this green jumpsuit is redirecting the blood flow from my brain to other parts of my anatomy.’
Another man commented on an Instagram picture of the tennis pro in the outfit, writing: ‘I saw you in this outfit this afternoon. I couldn’t say anything on account my wife called me to check it out. It’s hot!!’
Some people poked fun at the tennis star’s appearance, with one person joking that she looked like a character from hit TV show the Power Rangers.
Serena herself spoke out after the match to explain the inspiration behind her look – jokingly describing the outfit as a ‘Serena-tard’ and noting that she wanted to make a rather powerful statement with her ensemble.
‘We design really far in advance at Nike,’ she said in a press conference after her win. ‘I knew that I have been working really, really hard in the offseason to be incredibly fit and incredibly ready.
Controversy: Ms Williams made headlines in August last year, when the French Open banned her from wearing her black catsuit at this year’s tournament
Style win: Serena received high praise for the one-shouldered tutu dress she wore at the US Open. The style was designed especially for her by Nike and Off-White
‘You know, I took a year off, and, you know, just get back with still trying to get 12 months under my belt of playing, actually.
‘I wanted to be fit. I came back. Nike always wants to make an incredibly strong, powerful statement for mothers that are trying to get back and get fit. That was basically it for me.’
This is of course not the first time that Serena has made such a bold impression with her on-court fashions; the sporting superstar made headlines in August last year, when the French Open banned her from wearing her black catsuit at this year’s tournament.
President Bernard Giudicelli said in the 500th issue of Tennis Magazine that stricter rules will be in place as ‘sometimes we go too far.’
Referring to Ms Williams’ black catsuit, which she wore to the tournament last year, Mr Giudicelli said: ‘It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.’
Speaking out to defend her choice, Serena said the skin-tight outfit helps with preventing blood-clots, a condition she has covered in depth in her HBO series, Being Serena.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner’s sponsor Nike, also spoke out, sharing a photo to social media of Ms Williams in the outfit, along with the caption: ‘You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can’t take away her superpowers.’
At the US Open in 2018, Serena wowed fashion fans the world over when she took to the court one-shouldered tutu dresses that had been designed especially for her by trendy streetwear brand Off-White in collaboration with Nike.