PARIS — 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 on Tuesday, 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 U.S. 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.”
“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 Sept. 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.”