MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, February 8, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
As Serena Williams unveiled her latest tennis attire from Nike, an asymmetrical unitard on the opening day of the 2021 Australian Open in Melbourne, her “catsuit” look lit up social media and everyone who commented on TV, from ESPN‘s Mary Joe Fernandez to Tennis Channel‘s Lindsay Davenport, had nothing but positive things to say about it.
As it turned out, the 39-year-old Williams was paying tribute to the late U.S. Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner, “Flo-Jo,” who sported a similar look during her gold medal performances in the 1988 Summer Olympics. Williams seemed so casual about from the time she unveiled it on Rod Laver Arena as she began pursuit of a 24th major title that would tie her with legendary Australian Margaret Court, playing Germany’s Laura Siegemund. Williams easily won the match 6-1, 6-1.
The black, pink and red colors were splashed over the entire unitard, with one full-length and one bike-short length leg.
Only the greats can pull this look off!
RIP Flo-Jo 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/wrMKO17cqK
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) February 8, 2021
“Yeah, I was inspired by Flo-Jo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” Williams said during her post-match press conference. “Well, watching her fashion, just always changing, her outfits were always amazing. This year, we thought of ‘what can we do to keep elevating the Serena Williams [look] on court?’
“The Nike team actually thought of this design of inspiration from Flo-Jo. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so brilliant.’ That’s where we started. Obviously, we made some changes and tweaks to it. It became this.”
— The Age (@theage) February 8, 2021
Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner: Midnight battle
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 8, 2021
On the minds of the reigning Grand Slam champions + Serena
Over the weekend, on the eve of the start of the 2021 Australian Open, the four reigning Grand Slam champions – Sofia Kenin (Australian Open), Iga Swiatek (French Open), Simona Halep (Wimbledon) and Naomi Osaka (US Open) – plus 23-time major champion Serena Williams –shared their mindset and expectations with the world media covering the “Happy Slam” from near and far. Here’s a sampling of what they were asked and how they responded:
Sofia Kenin on the challenge of defending a Grand Slam for the first time:
“Obviously, I would love to defend it. But, yeah, just preparing physically and mentally, knowing that I got to be physically there in my game, my movement, everything. Mentally I got to handle my emotions and understand whoever I’m going to play, they’re obviously going to play with no pressure, which is expected. They’re probably going to play better against me, so I have to somehow try to handle my nerves and try to stick to my game plan, yeah, hope that I win.”
— Sofia Kenin (@SofiaKenin) February 6, 2021
Iga Swiatek on whether she feels different in herself now that she’s won a grand slam:
“It feels little bit different on court because I feel like people are not treating me as an underdog any more, and I have to adjust to that.
“But I want it to be the same. I want to enjoy the tournament as I did enjoy like every one of it. I’m just going to try to lower my expectations and remember that it doesn’t matter if I’m underdog or not, everybody is starting from the same position when they’re on court. I’m going to work with that.”
A Top 10 fixture since 2013, Simona Halep on the key to being consistent over a long period:
“I think I’ve been very focused on my job, because I call it a job. It is a job in my head. Of course, is full of passion and also the pleasure that I have for this sport, but it’s a job. … I’ve been very professional and I think I work hard for what I achieved already.”
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) February 6, 2021
Naomi Osaka on the importance of the No. 1 ranking:
“I remember when I first got to No. 1, I think nobody really acknowledge me as No. 1. I remember when I was in Indian Wells, and I was talking to someone. They were like, ‘What side of the draw are you on?’ And the No. 1 is always on the top side. It just made me think like, wow, people don’t really see me as No. 1.
“I feel like since that point, two years ago or was it last year? No, two years ago. I just kept trying to prove myself. I felt like that wasn’t really a good mindset to have.
“I feel like right now I’m at a really good place, like I just want to play every match as hard as I can. If it comes to the point where I’m able to be No. 1 again, I’ll embrace it, but I’m not really chasing it like that anymore.”
Serena Williams on the pursuit of winning a 24th Grand Slam title:
“It’s definitely on my shoulders and on my mind. I think it’s good to be on my mind. I think it’s a different burden, I should say, on my shoulders because I’m used to it now. It’s more relaxing I would like to say, yeah.”
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) February 8, 2021
Craig Tiley: Calling Off The Open would have been ‘catastrophic‘
— The Age (@theage) February 7, 2021
Roger Federer: One year ago …
One year ago, I had one of the greatest highlights of my career by playing the Match in Africa 6 in Cape Town. With the help of some special friends, we broke a world record! Stay tuned for the full length doc. @rogerfedererfdn @RafaelNadal @BillGates @Trevornoah #MatchinAfrica pic.twitter.com/vVc764WYjP
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 7, 2021
Mayar Sharif: Making history for Egypt
Twenty-four-year-old Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sharif, born in Cairo, collegiately educated in the United States and now a resident of Spain, makes her Australian Open main draw debut on Tuesday against 187th-ranked qualifier Chloe Paquet of Spain.
5⃣ Things to Know: Mayar Sherif
— TENNIS (@Tennis) February 7, 2021
Rebecca Marino: A return to a Grand Slam main draw
Heartwarmer of the day so far: Rebecca Marino’s first Grand Slam main-draw singles match in 8 years, and it’s a victory: 6-0, 7-6 (9) over Kimberly Birrell
Great to see Marino back, doing what she does so well
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 8, 2021
What they’re saying
• Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic has had a long-running off-court feud. Kyrgios doesn’t think much of the men’s World No. 1. He went so far as to recently calling Djokovic a “tool.” When the subject of Kyrgios came up during Djokovic’s Media Day press conference Sunday afternoon, here’s what Nole had to say: “I think he is good for the sport, he goes about things in an authentic way. Everyone has a right to express themselves in a way they want. He has a quality to beat everyone.
“Off the court, I don’t have much respect for him, I’ll leave it at that.”
• Kei Nishikori after losing 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to No. 15 seed Pablo Carreño Busta in the first round on Monday: “Well, tough luck because I thought I was playing well, but Carreño was playing better today. I thought I was playing pretty high level. For me, I played, I think, one of the best tennis so far, including last year coming back.
“I was kind of happy, you know, the way I’m playing with this level, but still not enough to beat this guy. I tried to keep playing, and hopefully I can start winning more.”
What they’re writing
• Tumaini Carayol, The Guardian of London tennis correspondent, writes about World No. 3 Dominic Thiem:
I spoke with Dominic Thiem about how painful last year’s AO final was, growing up a bit later and his family’s sacrifices: “Tennis is brutal. Week in, week out, you have to compete. You have to travel. Somehow there is no space to develop your character.” https://t.co/hCs45W2m5h
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) February 6, 2021
• Chuck Culpepper, The Washington Post national features writer, writes about Tennis Australia chief executive and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley:
Meet the beloved former college coach tasked with staging the Australian Open in a pandemic https://t.co/t1cPMGzXt0
— Post Sports (@PostSports) February 7, 2021
What they’re tweeting
The agony of defeat on the face of No. 10 seed Gaël Monfils said it all, after losing a 5-set first-round match to Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, in three hours and 43 minutes on Monday.
I don’t think Monfils will be the last player we see more emotional than usual at #AusOpen after holing up for 14 days to play a tournament.
Everything would just feel magnified with that much time waiting, and half of them are going to be eliminated in these first 48 hours. https://t.co/opa6FIsux4
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 8, 2021
What they’re sharing on social media
Novak Djokovic / No. 1 in the rankings and elasticity
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 8, 2021
Caroline Garcia / All smiles after first-round victory
— Caroline Garcia (@CaroGarcia) February 8, 2021
Jannik Sinner / Second time titlist
So happy to have won this week and to start my season this way. Thank you to my team, couldn’t have done this without you. Also, Congrats to my fellow compatriot @stetone91 for a great tournament 🇮🇹. And thank you to everyone and @tennisaustralia who made this event possible 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/KvZzL1q9vQ
— Jannik Sinner (@janniksin) February 7, 2021
Australian Open / Day 1 done, let’s do it again!
✅ Day 1 done
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 8, 2021