One year ago, Serena Williams was the subject of controversy during the French Open because of what she wore. Her "Black Panther"-inspired catsuit (which she also happened to be wearing for medical reasons, to help suppress blood clots like those she'd experienced after giving birth) prompted French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli to introduce a new dress code, saying: "I think that sometimes we've gone too far ... One must respect the game and the place."
While plenty of people came to the athlete's defense, pointing out the sexism of the whole ordeal, Williams herself took the high road, rising above the criticism and celebrating the fact that the Virgil Abloh-designed piece made her feel like a "warrior princess."
On Monday, she made her return to the French Open, and she sent her haters the clear message — via fashion — that she wouldn't let their judgments impede her greatness. For her first match, she wore a black-and-white two-piece set from the Off-White creative director's collaboration with Nike, which worked the words "Mother, Champion, Queen, Goddess" in French into the graphic zebra print.
In an interview with the Tennis Channel after winning her first round, the athlete spoke to the importance of her ensemble: "It's the second time we've worked together. And it has words in it in French. It talks about me being a mom and me being a queen, as all women are. A champion. It's positive reinforcement for me, and I kind of love that."
This look also featured fishnet, a callback to another controversial look Williams wore on the court in the past — though this time around, it was around her midsection rather than as tights.
To celebrate her partnership with Abloh and Nike, Williams also posted a series of photos on Instagram featuring her wearing the look alongside Abloh, powerfully shot in black and white.
All other tennis players, take note: This is how you make an impact at the French Open. (Winning — which Williams also did yesterday — certainly doesn't hurt, either.)
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