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The tennis star’s on-court outfits challenged conventions and showed the world what else a winner could look like

For nearly three decades, Serena Williams has dominated the tennis court and demonstrated her finesse in sports—and style.

Along with her sister Venus, the fearless tennis player paved the way for Black athletes in what has long been considered an elitist sport. Williams changed the world’s very idea of what a winner looks like: she served up everything from leopard prints to tutu skirts and catsuits as she earned Grand Slam titles and emerged as champion of Wimbledon and the US Open, season after season.

Now, as Williams looks ahead to the next chapter in her life as a mother, a venture capitalist, a business owner and more, we shine a spotlight on her most daring on-court outfits and how they defined her legacy as one of the world’s greatest athletes.

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1. 2002 US Open

When Williams took to the court in a short Puma catsuit that showed off her toned figure, she immediately stirred up controversy. Her ensemble was criticised for being risqué, even trashy, and her muscles were deemed as masculine.

But the misogynist and racist readings of Williams’ outfit ignored its power: here was a 21-year-old woman who felt confident in her body, a strength that saw her through to beating her rival Lindsay Davenport. With her baby pink headband and matching sweatband, her white-and-pink sneakers, and her Harry Winston diamond bracelet, Williams also asserted her femininity—and she would continue to do so throughout her career as an inspiration to female athletes everywhere.

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2. 2004 US Open

Williams was the embodiment of 2000s chic when she sported a Nike studded tank top and a pleated denim skirt—just the sort of clothes that Gen Z-ers scour their favourite fast fashion (or thrift) stores for today. Williams herself had actually found her jean-spiration from another tennis player: André Agassi, who famously wore denim shorts on the court.

3. 2010 Wimbledon

Williams fearlessly broke Wimbledon’s all-white dress code when she sported a pair of bright red hotpants under her white Nike dress. The offending shorts, which matched the piping on her dress and her Nike trainers, were worn for good luck—and true enough, the tennis star did end up winning the Wimbledon championship that year.

4. 2014 US Open

Williams was unmissable as she tore through the competition to win her 18th Grand Slam title—dressed in leopard print, no less. She had two different outfits featuring the fierce animal print, but it’s the hot pink version that will live on in Barbiecore moodboards.

5. 2014 Australia Open

The self-described “girly-girl” served up even more pink power at the 2014 Australia Open when she wore a bubblegum-hued blazer. When the athlete got down to business, she did away with the jacket to unveil a mesh polka dot dress that even matched her manicure.

6. 2016 US Open

Showcasing perfect coordination in both her forehand and her fashion sense, Williams donned two edgy tennis dresses with skirts marked by neon pink pleats. Her arm sleeves also proved to be a powerful accessory, emphasising her excellent form.

7. 2018 French Open

Williams looked every bit the superhero when she stepped out in her second controversial catsuit in 2018. The skintight ensemble was designed to protect against blood clots, which Williams has a history of suffering from. But its resemblance to a Black Panther costume also made her feel like a “warrior princess”, a boost that she needed when she played the French Open less than a year after a difficult pregnancy. Williams would emerge victorious, although the French Tennis Federation would later announce a ban on catsuits.

8. 2018 US Open

Playing tennis in a tutu? Williams and former Off-White designer Virgil Abloh made it possible when they collaborated on a custom one-shoulder ballerina-style dress that was inspired by Williams’ interest in dance. The look came in black, but it was undoubtedly the lavender version that stole the show.

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9. 2021 Wimbledon

Talk about making an entrance: Williams transformed the court into a runway when she stepped out in a custom white Nike one-shoulder dress that came with a dramatic, detachable train.

10. 2021 Australia Open

Williams was a joy to watch as she served up her best moves at the 2021 Australia Open while donning a colour-block catsuit. Again, her penchant for pink shined through, as did her love for asymmetric styles (the bodysuit only featured one leg).

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