PREDICTABLY, the French Tennis Federation’s decision to institute a new dress code for upcoming French Opens was met with almost universal derision. That it smacked of poor timing, having been announced publicly by president Bernard Giudicelli with the United States Open at hand, wasn’t even the primordial issue. For tennis greats, longtime fans, casual observers, and social media habitues alike, it smacked of the type of discrimination that stunted players’ freedoms.
Certainly, the Federation’s position wasn’t helped any by Giudicelli’s statements, which singled out Serena Williams, by far the most visible — and, not coincidentally, accomplished — practitioner on the distaff side for her attire choices at the French Open two months ago. He made particular mention of her catsuit, noting that “it will no longer be accepted. I think sometimes we have gone too far. One must respect the game and place.” Never mind that it actually served a technical purpose, aiding her blood circulation and thus minimizing the recurrence of blood clots resulting from post-delivery complications last year.
Parenthetically, Giudicelli’s emphasis on respecting the “place” introduces a bizarre twist. What “place” is appropriate for Williams’ catsuit? And what “place” could be better than supposedly progressive France to make fashion statements? In the face of a severe, if well-deserved, backlash, he should thank his lucky stars the primary subject of his pronouncements has chosen to be magnanimous. In response, she noted that “he’s been so easy to talk to … I’m sure we would come to an understanding and everything will be okay.”
Under the circumstances, Williams could have been rightly indignant. Instead, she chose to be diplomatic, her position aided in no small measure by the presence of French nationals in her team. Imagine that — the sport’s most accomplished predator on the court being subtle and nuanced off it. And because of her success in breaking barriers, all and sundry can rest easy in the knowledge that the outcome will be to her satisfaction.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.