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Women’s Tennis Association Revises Rules for 2019—and Allows Serena Williams to Wear Her Catsuit

When Serena Williams returned to the tennis court in May, following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia, at the 2018 French Open, she did so in a custom black Nike catsuit. It wasn’t only an epic, symbolic look—”all the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and have to come back and try to be fierce, in [the] middle of everything, that’s what this represents,” she said at the tournament—it was specifically designed for Williams to prevent blood clots from forming while she played. She has a history of blood clots and was especially at risk following childbirth. Still, Williams’ outfit didn’t sit well with everyone: A few months later, Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the French Tennis Association announced a new dress code that would prohibit catsuits like Williams’ from appearing on the court in 2019. Many denounced this proposed ban, and Nike stood in support of Williams. Now, ahead of the new year, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is clarifying the rules surrounding female players’ wardrobes, including compression pieces like Williams’ now-famous French Open catsuit.

The WTA released a summary of rule changes for 2019, which touched on rankings, price money withdrawals, and attire, the BBC reports. “Leggings and mid-thigh-length compression shorts may be worn with or without a skirt, shorts, or dress,” the organization wrote.

2018 French Open Tennis Tournament. Roland Garros.

PHOTO: Tim Clayton – Corbis

That doesn’t override the French Tennis Association’s proposed banning of the catsuit at the French Open—but, should Williams want to re-wear the catsuit, she’ll likely face less pushback from officials at other tournaments. (Though, don’t expect to see her play in it again—following Giudicelli’s comments, Williams noted how she wasn’t that interested in rewearing the outfit, anyway: “When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender,” she told ESPN.)

2018 French Open Tennis Tournament. Roland Garros.

PHOTO: Tim Clayton – Corbis

The revised rules also grant more protections to new mothers returning to the sport in regards to their rankings, according to the Telegraph. You may remember how Williams arrived to the Glam Slam this year with a lower ranking, which seeded her at a shockingly low No. 453. The WTA will now guarantee that returning players won’t face seeded competitors in the early rounds (and thus not risk early elimination); how they’re seeded themselves in these tournaments, however, remains at the discretion of officials.

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