KEY BISCAYNE (Florida): Serena Williams, whose trend-setting tennis fashions have been nearly as impressive as her six Grand Slam titles, made her triumphant return to the court on Friday in a silk and silver showpiece.
Wearing a white silk corset dress with touches of silver and a matching jacket, the 22-year-old American ended her eight-month layoff by defeating Spanish qualifier Marta Marrero 6-1, 6-0 at the Nasdaq-100 Open.
It's a lovely outfit, one of the best I've ever worn, Williams said. It's a very light silk fabric. The silver part is very breathable and lightweight, not hot at all.
Harkening to the flamboyant Pink Panther and Black Cat outfits she wore during her run to the 2002 US Open crown, Williams showed her sense of style had not suffered during her layoff.
Its corset design makes me look very, very slim and trim in the waist. It really brings in your waist, Williams said. I call it a corset dress. Very Hollywood glam with the silk.
Williams had not played since she beat older sister Venus last July in the Wimbledon final. She underwent left knee surgery last August and coped with the shooting death of half-sister Yetunde Price last September.
Having spent time on her modeling, acting and fashion design careers during the layoff, Williams used her body as a billboard for pitching the new tennis attire, which she helped design.
I had a lot of input into the design, she said. It's great working with this team. They have this vision. They give me a sketch.
I told them when I first them, 'Look, I'm really into looking really good on the court. I don't have to be comfortable if you want to use fabrics that a lot of players don't want to wear because they are really into the comfort.
Working with them, we actually found a fabric that was very comfortable, very breathable and very light but still had this metallic look about it.
Williams was clear that tennis will be her top priority for now, with plans to play at Charleston, Amelia Island, Rome and the French Open as well as next month's US Fed Cup tie.
But tennis denies Williams a chance to further her acting career.
I would love to get a lot of acting gigs, but you wouldn't believe the stuff I turn down because of my tournament schedule, Williams said. I'm not looking to do anything right now because I'm trying to play tennis.
Asked to name her ideal role, Williams replied, I think I would do well beside Chris Tucker actually. I think that would be my role. I would excel at that.
She probably will get her chance. Williams' new boyfriend is Hollywood director Brett Ratner, who guided Tucker in the hit film Rush Hour. AFP