Rafa claws Serena in bitter catsuit spat
RAFAEL Nadal seems to have a dog in tennis's catsuit fight.
Nadal defended the French Open powers-that-be in their dress-code crackdown - an effort that prominently cited Serena Williams' skin-tight black outfit at this spring's tournament as inspiration.
French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli last week said Williams' outfit at this year's French Open - a skin-tight, black catsuit - would not be tolerated at Roland Garros in the future because "you have to respect the game and the place".
Tennis fans were furious about the directive but Nadal said event organisers had the right to implement whatever rules they wished.
"I think that everybody is fair to do whatever works better for the tournament," Nadal said on Tuesday (AEST) after winning his opening match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, before invoking the all-white clothing policy that has long been enforced at Wimbledon.
"I really believe when you have a tournament like Wimbledon that they do what they want. You cannot say to another event that they have to do another thing. That's my opinion. Why if Wimbledon has their own rules, why Roland Garros cannot have it?"
Perhaps it's no surprise that Nadal would back the French Open - where he has won a record 11 titles and holds a majestic 86-2 record.
Williams at first struck a conciliatory tone in response to the comments by Giudicelli, saying she believed they would reconsider when they learned the catsuit has health benefits - it promotes circulation, important given her history of blood clots - and she didn't want to run afoul of the fashion police by repeating an outfit anyway.
On Tuesday, after a straight-sets opening-round victory, she shut down that line of questioning: "I don't want to talk about that. Do we have any other questions?"
Williams showed off a different look at Flushing Meadows to kick off her US Open campaign, wearing an asymmetrical Virgil Abloh x Nike tutu paired with sparkly silver sneakers from the same "Queen" collection and compression fishnet tights.
Williams' choice of hosiery is particularly significant in that it - like her catusit - is meant to prevent blood clots.
The recent furore about her fashion choices did nothing to hinder Williams' performance as she ran over the top of Magda Linette to advance to the second round with a 6-4 6-0 win.
Williams, a six-time champion at Flushing Meadows, missed last year's edition as she gave birth to daughter Olympia on September 1.
She was all-business on her return under the floodlights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she has lifted the trophy so many times before.
Linette, the World No. 68 from Poland who was facing Williams for the first time, held her own in the early going.
But Williams broke her in the seventh game of the opening set to gain the upper hand and from there the American superstar rolled on.
"The first set was tight," Williams, seeded 17th, said. "It was my first match back here in New York so that wasn't the easiest.
"Once I got settled I started doing what I'm trying to do in practice.
"I think I'm getting there."
Williams - who reached the final at Wimbledon only to fall short of matching Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 major titles - didn't face a break point in the 70-minute match, but as her momentum built her emotions burst out with fist-clenched shouts of "come on".
After Williams held serve from deuce for a 5-3 lead, Linette would hold to force Williams to serve out the set.
From there, it was all Williams as she raced through the second set in 28 minutes.
- with AFP