Serena Williams made her return to Slam competition on Tuesday morning with a win. She beat 70th-ranking Kristyna Pliskova in straight sets, and will face Australian talent Ashleigh Barty in the second round to see if she can make this win the beginning of a deeper run in her first major tournament since last year’s Australian Open.
Besides her triumphant return to the court — where she initially looked shaky before snapping into the Serena we know (or at least closer) in the second set — the major newsmaker was her outfit.
She has always been creative with her on-court outfits. Leopard print and lace and neon have all made appearances over the years. And any longtime fan will remember her Puma catsuit from the 2002 US Open, a true treasure no matter the era.
Her latest striking choice is a black Nike catsuit she chose for the red clay of Roland Garros.
Catsuit anyone? For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy—here you go. If I can do it, so can you. Love you all!! pic.twitter.com/xXb3BKDGNF— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) May 29, 2018
There’s layers to this, naturally. Her penchant for making a splash in big moments (and what’s bigger than her return to the court after giving birth less than a year ago?) is notable, and that was probably on her mind.
But in a tweet after the match Williams said the catsuit was “for all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy ... If I can do it, so can you.” Directly after the match she told Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim,
“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. You can’t beat a cat suit, right?”
Williams underwent an emergency C-section and was bedridden for six weeks after giving birth to her daughter Olympia due to complications including a pulmonary embolism, a hematoma in her abdomen, and additional surgery to make sure clots didn’t travel to her lungs.
Recently she told the New York Times that on top of all of that she underestimated how her recovery would go, saying,
“I never felt winded like that. And it felt like no matter what I do, the weight is taking forever to get off, and it was crazy. Finally I was able to get better, but it took forever.”
That’s something many moms can probably relate to, especially if they had complications like Williams experienced. Or even a fraction of those complications.
She’s been outspoken about the struggles that happen in pregnancy and the expectations of recovery, and now she’s continued that drive for awareness by acknowledging that there is a point after recovery is over where you just want to look good, and feel like you’re closer to the body you had pre-pregnancy. Even if that’s not your 2002 body.
And rather than approaching it purely from the weight loss aspect — too often the sole angle taken in celebrity pregnancy “comebacks” — Williams is sharing the message that people deserve to look good and be confident, period. No matter how far along post-pregnancy they are or what they do for a living.
As the debate rages on amongst players and the WTA about whether players returning from pregnancy deserve seeding protections, the best player in the sport is coming back from her maternity leave by stepping on the court, looking and feeling great, and hopefully winning more matches during this fortnight. If not, her comeback speaks just as loud as any wins would.