Serena Williams, the American tennis star and advocate of comfy, fashionable sneakers, beat the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova 7-6, 6-4 at the French Open yesterday (May 29). It was her first grand slam match since giving birth and facing life-threatening post-natal complications in late 2017. She came dressed for the occasion.
Williams wore a black bodysuit that according to an ESPN reporter ”gleamed like tempered steel in the afternoon sunlight.” The skin-tight look with full-length legs stood apart from the usual tennis attire of a skirt and tank top, especially on such a sunny day.
“I call it, like, my Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” she joked after the game, referring to the fictional African country in the hit movie Black Panther. “We designed it way before the movie,” she added, “but still, it kind of reminds me of that.”
The tight-fitting look by Nike, Williams’s sponsor, had more benefits than just its head-turning appearance. It was meant to protect Williams against blood clots, a longtime health concern that has sidelined her in the past. Compression can help keep blood circulating properly, which is why people who have been immobilized due to age or recent surgery often wear compression socks (it’s also why you might want to consider a pair for yourself on long-haul flights). A common danger of blood clots, especially in the calf, is that they can come loose and enter the circulatory system, potentially causing a pulmonary embolism.
After the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, last year, Williams revealed that she had a difficult time recovering. Doctors ultimately found that several small clots had entered her lungs. These and other post-partum complications led to a six-day drama of health scares and surgeries.
Williams skipped the Australian Open earlier this year because of her health. When she returned to the court at the French Open yesterday, she dedicated her look on Instagram to “all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy.”
In her remarks to reporters after the match, she said the outfit makes her feel like a warrior—of which there were plenty in Wakanda. “I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero,” she said.
Williams’s husband, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, shared the feeling. When SportsCenter’s Twitter account proclaimed “SHE’S BACK,” Ohanian commented, “Yes she is. And that superhero outfit.”