Serena Williams took more than a year away from her tennis career while pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia, who arrived in September. While some had doubts about whether the new mom would return to the game at all, the Grand Slam queen proved her doubters wrong and made her comeback yesterday in the most epic way imaginable. (Related: Serena Williams Shares How She's Embracing Her Changing Body During Pregnancy)
Not only did she win her first Grand Slam match against Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova in a 7–6, 6–4 first-round victory, but she did so as an unseeded player—she is currently ranked 451st in the world—and was up against one of the highest ranking players in the French Open.
In fact, it was Williams' steep descent in the ranking that caused quite the controversy last week. She lost her number-ine ranking for going on maternity leave, after all. (BTW, Williams is an 23-time Grand Slam champ.) As of right now, the World Tennis Association (WTA) treats pregnancy as an "injury" and doesn't protect a woman's ranking if she's been away from the game for a long period of time because of it. Williams' situation has pressured the WTA to reevaluate their outdated ways. (Related: Serena Williams Says Being a Woman Changes How Success Is Measured In Sports)
this match should not be happening in a 3rd round. Serena (and all mothers) should be protected by the WTA and allowed to use their protected ranking for seeding, if applicable. Women should not be penalized for giving birth by starting from zero
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) March 12, 2018
That's why everyone had high expectations for her return—and boy did she deliver, returning to the court in a black catsuit that evoked a very powerful message. "I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of, (a) queen from Wakanda," Williams told the press after the match, referencing the hit movie Black Panther. "I'm always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it's kind of my way of being a superhero. I feel like a superhero when I wear it."
Beyond that, Williams wanted her comeback to mean something to moms like her who are trying to get back in the game (literally and figuratively) after giving birth. "It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically, with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves," said Williams, who also just debuted a new fashion collection "inspired by femininity and strength."
In an Instagram following the match, Williams dedicated her first time back on the court to all the moms out there. "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," she wrote. (Related: This Is Serena Williams' Body-Positive Message for Young Women)
ICYDK, Williams dealt with dangerous blood clots and other complications after giving birth, forcing her to stay in bed for weeks. So, on top of just looking downright badass, it turns out the catsuit helped optimize her performance given her medical condition. "I've been wearing pants, in general, a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going," Williams told reporters. "So it's a fun suit but it's also functional, so I can be able to play without any problems."
Since Williams' iconic win, Twitter has been exploding with supportive comments for the new mom.
Following her return to grand slam tennis after having her baby girl, Serena Williams wears a full, skintight bodysuit & braids in her first match at the French Open. You can’t tell me she ain’t the GOAT #RG18 pic.twitter.com/YjJmEkcjz6
— Troy (@Troy_Official) May 29, 2018
You're a total rockstar. From one mama to another, thank you!
— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) May 30, 2018
Major props to Williams for always being an inspiration to female athletes and weekend warriors alike, and for serving as a reminder that life has no limitations except for the ones you set for yourself.
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