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Serena Williams on Style (and Winning)

One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Williams reflects on how expectation-breaking Nike ensembles have mirrored her record-breaking career.

When it comes to the intersection of sport and style, Serena Williams champions a simple strategy: “I always say: If you look good, you feel good and you play well.” Based upon the athlete’s record since 2004, when she signed with Nike, the equation is a winning one. 

The current number one female tennis player holds 36 major singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles – the highest number amongst active players. She also boasts four gold medals. Her recent championship on the grass of SW19 secured her a second “Serena Slam,” the winning of all four majors in a row. And with a victory in New York City, she’ll tie the record for the most major singles titles collected by a female player.

The style factor of Williams’ equation can also be easily tracked. Soon after Williams became a Nike athlete, she “looked good” and made a stir in 2004 in a denim-inspired skirt paired with a studded black crop top, matching jacket and knee-high black boots. “I was so influenced by Andre Agassi growing up,” she recalls, “watching him wearing jean shorts. I always said, ‘One day, we’re going to have to bring back the jean short.’”

The seminal outfit was merely a prelude to the litany of convention-challenging ensembles Williams would don in the subsequent decade. There was the headline-making white trench, an etched leather vest, full-zip tank and shrunken pink floral shrug-style jacket. Then, there was the graphic “Royal” ensemble with 3-D details, cutout Transform Tank and the leopard-print series, amongst others. In Williams’ own words, “I can’t say that there are one or two style moments that are memorable. I’d have to say there are, like, 20.” Along with naming the gold look from 2004 and the pleated mesh skirt designed in 2005 as amongst her favorites, the champion is particularly fond of the wardrobe that has accompanied her 2015 wins.

“This year [Nike and I] celebrated the beauty of power and strength: how you can be both at the same time. We wanted to show the beauty of a woman’s back. The outfits I wore really celebrated that: the woman’s silhouette. They were just really unique – bold, but yet really beautiful.”

As a whole, Williams’ Nike archive could be labeled “high risk,” an attribute often associated with her play. In both cases, the risk has clearly been worth the reward. Williams’ style influence has transcended the courts, landing her in the front row of fashion shows and on covers of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines, which celebrate the athlete’s ability to communicate externally the strength, beauty and confidence she cultivates internally.

“I like to express who I am. I love to push the envelope, but I also love that classic silhouette,” Williams explains. “I love that perfect mix between trendy and classic. We always have that perfect balance.”

The athlete’s show-stealing synthesis will resurface shortly in New York City, where Williams will debut new signature on- and off-court looks that embody the flair she hopes to leverage into match points. “It’s obviously my goal to win the tournament, but more than anything to hold my title,” she confirms. “I have so much fun there – and I have so much fun winning there.”