5 Reasons Why Roland Garros Should Revoke Their Ban On Serena Williams’s Superhero Suit

Annalisa Conti
5 min readAug 25, 2018


We have all seen the pictures: Serena Williams stunned a few months ago at the French Tennis Open in a black full bodysuit. She looked like a mix between Black Panther and Catwoman, only stronger and fiercer. And we all read the news, a few hours ago: the French Open decided to introduce a stricter dress code from next year, which actively bans Serena’s black catsuit from the courts.

Why did Serena Williams wear a superhero suit and why should the ban be revoked?

1: She said it herself: “I feel like a warrior in it”

“(I feel) like a warrior princess queen from Wakanda,” Williams confirmed the comparison by mentioning the fictional African country where the action of the movie Black Panther takes place.

We all know the effect clothes have on our confidence, and how important it is to dress up “not for the job you have but for the job you want”. If this was also Serena’s goal, she donned the perfect ensemble to funnel her courage and physical strength, at the same time frightening her rivals like a black cat with her tail up straight.

The Black Panther imagery is also right on point: the movie offers a unique representation of women in the superhero ecosystem. Its female characters are warriors and scientists, brave and loyal, and the fact that they are women is completely secondary to who they are as people, and this makes them so impactful. These are real, strong women, so close to who we are in our everyday lives.

2: It sends the right message about body image

Serena Williams returned to the international tennis circus after more than a year on maternity leave, and the first thing she did was winning her first match. She chose to do it in a black suit that highlighted her waist with a red stripe. A symbol of her post-pregnancy strength? An encouragement to accept the body part that most carries the weight and transformation of pregnancy? Certainly a show of pride, for being a woman with all that comes with it — post-pregnancy body changes included.

She highlighted it in Paris: she specifically chose to wear the black catsuit to send a message to mothers all over the world. And all of us who had children and struggle to recognize ourselves in the mirror after the baby is born, we all got the message loud and clear: we should be proud of what we did. And we should carry and honor its signs on our bodies, whatever they are. It takes courage to walk into a challenge that we know will transform us, our bodies and our lives, but we don’t know how and how much. It’s like a tennis match: you never know where the next ball will come from, but somehow you have to feel ready to hit it with your racket and send it back.

3: … and about returning to life after giving birth

“All the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and have to come back and try to be fierce, in a middle of everything. That’s what this represents,” Williams said.

Serena’s physical strength is an example for all of us, a confirmation that it is possible to come back to being and feeling like ourselves after giving birth. It’s not a matter of losing weight, what we are talking about here is energy, confidence, empowerment.

4: It shows the determination each one of us has to fight our way back

For Serena it was a physical fight: “Well, first and foremost, you have to get your core back, which is hard, because it literally spreads when you have a baby,” she said. “That’s difficult. And just coming back from the physical of having a baby, at my age is never, I think, really easy.”

For most of us the fight is mostly on two different levels: mental focus and time management.

Dealing with a baby and a job, and never forgetting we are also human beings who need to have an individual life, and some shared moments with our significant other, is consuming. We are all used to living our own life, just this one life, but when a baby comes the two (if not only one) adults who take care of a newborn have to add one more life to the family balance. If we do the maths, it makes 1.5 lives each. Where do you find that additional space in your brain? Where do you find those additional 12 hours per day?

Mental focus is essential to have straight priorities, and just follow them. The apparently never ending (but it does get better) feeding/changing/sleeping baby routine? Definitely in the Top 5. Doing adult things, like talking to each other? Definitely in the Top 5. Sleeping? Somewhere in between number 5 and 10. Grocery shopping? Out of the Top 10. Dealing with your mother in-law? Definitely far out of the Top 10.

Time management is the key to define and maintain those priorities, just like Serena surely dedicates ample portions of her days to both training and spending time with her daughter and her husband.

5: It acknowledges post-birth challenges (physical and emotional)

Serena elaborated on how her black bodysuit was an encouragement for all mothers to speak about their pregnancies and their challenges: “And then we can open up the community and talk about it more and help each other out, because it’s something that we should talk about.”
She has also opened up about her own health concerns over blood clots in the days after giving birth, and in late May she revealed how the full bodysuit also improved blood circulation in her legs.

All of us have some long- or short-term consequences from pregnancy. Sometimes they are physical, both in terms of body shape and proper health; sometimes they are emotional, due to the hormonal ups and downs; sometimes they are psychological, and those are the most critical of all. Motherhood can be a tricky joy for a woman.

We all love tennis, playing and watching it, and we definitely understand the importance of dress code and rules in everything in life. But for all the reasons above, this decision by Roland Garros seems to us a bit too rational, and failing to acknowledge the passion and effort that go into a champion’s career, and the importance of representation. Let’s hope Serena can still wear her superhero suit next year in Paris — and also this Monday morning at 11am, for her debut at the US Open.

Bonus: She actually IS a superhero

Serena Williams is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and the only player ever to have won two Grand Slams seven times each (7 Wimbledon titles and 7 Australian Open titles); she holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players (from Wikipedia).

Note: Serena Williams held a series of post-match interviews at the French Open in Paris in late May 2018; all quotes are from AAP



Annalisa Conti

Author of Women’s Fiction novels NINE, AFRICA, ALL THE PEOPLE, short stories THE W SERIES. World traveler, Sci-Fi lover, movie goer. annalisaconti.com