posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 08:25 PM
Dressed for a night on the town, Serena Williams was all business in her first match in 4 1/2 weeks.
Williams strode into Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing knee-high black boots, a denim miniskirt, a studded black tank top and dangling earrings. A far cry
from the tennis attire of days gone by, to be sure, but then again, Williams' powerful strokes bear little resemblance to the way the women's game
used to be played.
Showing little sign of her injury-induced layoff, the two-time U.S. Open champion advanced to the second round with ease, overwhelming Sandra Kleinova
of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 Monday night.
Williams might have been dressed for a cocktail party or MTV's Video Music Awards, which she attended last year while skipping the Open shortly after
left knee surgery.
Her play Monday was definitely Grand Slam-caliber, though, a step above what fellow major champions Jennifer Capriati, Roger Federer and Carlos Moya
showed in shaky victories earlier on Day 1.
"Her outfit? I tried not to look at it," said Kleinova, who wore a navy skirt and white shirt. "It's her style. She always wears something
Her play was special, too. Williams, seeded No. 3, finished with a remarkable 35-3 edge in winners and saved the only break point she faced with one
of her seven aces. That serve was clocked at 108 mph, and she reached 123 mph with another.
"Her serving was pretty good. If she places it really well, like she did tonight, it's hard to return - even for guys," Kleinova said.
Williams said last week she's at 90 to 95 percent, working her way back since pulling out of a tournament at Carlsbad, Calif., in late July because of
soreness in her left knee. Williams also missed the Olympics, deciding not to go only hours before the U.S. tennis team's flight to Greece.
"I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to prepare for this event," she said. "I'm taking it a day at a time. I'm just so excited to be out
here again in New York. It's been a while."
After warming up, she had to take off the boots - actually, they ran from the top of her black sneakers to her knees - because U.S. Open officials
told Williams last month that she couldn't wear them during a match. Like Tommy Haas' sleeveless muscle shirt two years ago, the boots don't meet the
"customary tennis attire" rule, tournament referee Brian Earley and tournament director Jim Curley determined.
Williams always seems to have something up her sleeve when it comes to fashion. She won the 2002 Open wearing what she called a catsuit, a skintight
black Lycra outfit that caused a stir.
"It's great that Serena has so much confidence to stand out and do something different. She goes beyond tennis," 1979 and 1981 U.S. Open champion
Tracy Austin said. "Tennis needs that. We need the Andre Agassis, the Serena Williams, the Maria Sharapovas, the Andy Roddicks that are willing to
stand out and be different."