Serena Continues Her Pursuit Of GOAT Status At The French Open

Serena Williams continues to influence fashion and culture while defying Mother Nature in pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam.

Serena Williams established herself as one of the world’s all-time greatest athletes a long time ago. Before she conquered stereotypes and broke the mold for female empowerment in athletics. Before she defied outdated beliefs about fashion and a woman’s place in the world of sports. Before she got married, almost lost her life delivering her baby Alexis Olympia in 2017 and then returned to the French Open in 2018 after a 16-month layoff.

Decline Or Destiny? 

That’s why it’s been hard to watch her battle injuries the past two seasons as she attempts to regain a form that we may never see again from her. She’s played only nine matches all season, and still sits just one Grand Slam title shy of a record-tying 24th,

As she continues to defy age and miraculously perform at a level that’s inconceivable for any aged tennis player, her all-encompassing and incomparable brilliance, resilience, determination, and talent were on full display again at Roland Garros on Monday.

Serena survived a near-loss to 83rd-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko.

When Serena dropped her first set, a brief thought infiltrated my mind; Was Mother Nature finally catching up with The GOAT?

Serena’s injury struggles and the recent success of Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, and Madison Keys have already made it clear that challengers to her throne were closing the gap on the tennis court.

Repelling Mother Nature, Changing The Culture 

Williams pulled out before the fourth round of last year’s French Open because of an injured chest muscle, then was the runner-up at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She came to Paris this time having withdrawn from each of her past two tournaments because of a janky left knee, and the one before that because of illness.

As quick as the thought of a declining Williams flashed across my mind, she proceeded to win 11 of the next 13 points, and 12 of the 13 games the rest of the way, to come back for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory at the French Open.

True to form, her ferociousness and fearlessness on the court also masterfully coincided with a fashion, cultural and social statement.

Nike brought Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh to help Serena design her outfit for this year’s Fench Open. The new playing ensemble consisted of a black-and-white skirt alongside a matching top. Also, the costume featured a cape-jacket, that helps resemble the silhouette of a superhero.

The outfit represents Serena as the words “Mother”, “Champion”, “Queen” and “Goddess”, which are written in French and printed on the jacket.

En route to her 2018 return, Serena’s fashion swag conjured as much reaction as her court exploits.

The black “Catwoman” suit exuded Black Girl strength and was banned by racist and outdated French Open officials during last year’s competition. French Open President Bernard Giudicelli announced a stricter dress code, specifically called out Williams’ catsuit and said players in the future should choose outfits “to respect the game and place.”

The controversy sparked an international conversation about the underlying racism, sexism, and inequity in tennis. Serena received overwhelming support from women across the country and further elevated her legend as a superwoman and champion of causes.

While sister Venus lost in the first round of the French Open, Serena continues to defeat younger, healthier tennis players, while impacting society on a transcending scale unmatched by any athlete in our recent memory.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.