The 2018 U.S. Open, now rolling toward its semifinal round, has seen fashion at the forefront of discussion.
Earlier in the tournament, French singles player Alizé Cornet was lambasted by a chair empire for taking off her shirt to reposition it while behind the baseline. Following widespread outrage, the USTA formally rescinded its official’s scolding.
This came as Serena Williams, on her postpartum return tour, has stirred tennis with a series of divisive outfits. Last week, the French Tennis Federation unveiled a ban on catsuits after Williams had worn one to this year’s Roland Garros tournament. The figure-hugging outfit had been designed to improve circulation and alleviate Williams’ postpartum blood clots.
The contentious mood carried over to the U.S. Open, where Williams has been wearing various takes on a tutu designed by Virgil Abloh for Nike — an unconventional look that has received mixed reviews.
Though ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe conceded that “the tutu wasn’t my favorite look,” he does feel that the hubbub over fashion is “good for the game of tennis.”
“I think if people want to come and talk about the players’ outfits, it makes it better for tennis,” said the former pro player.
“I think she should be able to wear whatever she wants; I think it was a cool outfit,” McEnroe added of Williams’ catsuit. “When you go to the gym or a SoulCycle class, you see people in those kinds of outfits all the time. I think it makes tennis more interesting and people can relate to it. Both Serena and Venus have always looked beyond just what happens on the tennis courts.”
While some may consider these debates regressive, McEnroe noted that tennis’ fashion sense has certainly evolved since its days of prim whites and polo shirts. “I think we have progressed in a big way. It’s great to show athleticism and see the physiques of all the players. Even Nadal with his sleeveless shirt — that would never have happened in those days of tennis,” he said of the game’s conservatism.
This year’s Open has seen changes in the fashion sphere from a commercial perspective as well. Rolex became the tournament’s official timekeeper, usurping longtime sponsor Citizen Watch. Nike was not only absent from Roger Federer’s locker (the player recently made a much-publicized switch to Uniqlo) — the brand’s on-site shop has been replaced this year by its rival, Adidas.