Serena playing in the US Open

Serena playing in the US OpenIMAGE: Getty

Tennis champ, Serena Williams is no stranger to a headline. Her return to the tennis court, after having a child last year (and suffering serious health issues the process) has coincided with a new, stronger attitude.

As a mother, a woman and one of the best sportspeople of all time. 

Recent remarks by the French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli however have instigated a heated debate about how, not just Serena, but all women are treated in sport.

Serena had played the French Open this year in a custom made 'catsuit'. It was designed to help prevent blood clots – a potentially life threatening medical concern that Serena had dealt with after the birth of her baby.  

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Bernard indicated in an interview that Serena would not be allowed to wear the  catsuit again at Roland Garros. The implication was that it did not adhere to the dress code of the tournament but Bernard’s comments caused an absolute media storm with a side serving of public debate.

Some came out to say rules are rules and there are uniforms for most sports – all-white attire for Wimbledon, for example. A fair point, perhaps, but much was said of the fact that this criticism was leveled at Serena. Would such comments have been made about a male athlete? 

The lady herself responded in typically classy style, turning out to play matches at the US Open this week in an array of tutus designed by Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White, in collaboration with Nike.

 The US Open made headlines of its own this week however and those disagreeing with cries of sexism around Serena’s treatment were perhaps silenced a little by what occurred. It involved French player Alize Cornet (also a woman, strangely enough).

On being told that she had her top on back to front, she took it off while courtside - briefly exposing her sports bra -  and received a code violation for it. Rules are rules, perhaps, but male Serbian tennis player, Novak Djokovic sat topless during his ten minute break in a match the day before. He received no penalty.

Restrictions on sportswomen is not a new conversation though. Back in 2012 there were whispers that female boxers were to wear skirts in the ring. Ireland’s Katie Taylor had little time for the idea - as her chat with Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show indicated. The idea was ultimately shelved though, after being roundly derided.Perhaps we have turned a corner. The international outcry following Serena's treatment, and the subsequent US Open incident has shone a light on the inequalities women face in sport and beyond. Greatest of all time or otherwise.