- TENNIS - Venus Williams' fashion front grabs headlines

Tuesday, January 23
Venus Williams' fashion front grabs headlines

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Some feared for her modesty, others just plain hated it, but Venus Williams's daring low-cut new outfit revealed at the Australian Open made sure she stayed the center of attention on Wednesday.

Venus Williams
Some spectators had trouble figuring out what Venus Williams' outfit was all about.

"Venus's fashion front" said the tabloid Herald Sun newspaper next to a front page photo of the elder Williams sister in the revealing blue-and-black, combination bra and low-cut top she wore for the first time on Tuesday.

"The ($39.2) million ace wore a skirt teamed with a complicated strappy top that kept stunned fans guessing whether it was a too-tiny bra or a two-tone slashed-front top," it said of the gravity-defying outfit.

Venus, 20, recently signed a $40 million deal with sportswear giant Reebok and is studying fashion at a Florida university.

Venus and younger sister Serena were positively demure in their outfits while winning their doubles match on Wednesday, but there were still talk over Venus' ensemble Tuesday.

"I thought it was a little bizarre to play tennis in," defending champion Lindsay Davenport said of fashion student Venus' gravity-defying, peekaboo creation.

Some former players feared for Venus's modesty during the more demanding points in her match against Spanish qualifier Maria Jose Martinez.

"Every time Venus tossed up to serve I was thinking: 'Oh no, they won't fall out, will they?'," tour veteran Pam Shriver said in The Australian newspaper.

"Thankfully they didn't... things were much simpler in my day. I do not think many of us would be comfortable wearing Venus's contraption," Shriver said.

After the frenzy she created on Tuesday, Venus surprised again on Wednesday by choosing a conservative outfit for her doubles match.

She wore a simple white T-shirt and blue skirt as she and Serena -- the Wimbledon and Olympic doubles champions -- beat Canada's Renata Kolbovic and India's Niupama Vaidyanathan.

Venus said she was not distracted by the front-page attention that Tuesday's outfit attracted.

"I'm not irritated... I'm not easily irritated," she said.

Outshining Anna
Venus's stunning outfit even overshadowed Russia's glamorous Anna Kournikova. The eighth seed signed autographs for around 400 fans while the Williams sister act played to a bigger crowd on centre court at Melbourne Park.

"Excluding every day of Kournikova's career, an outfit rarely generates as much interest as Venus Williams's apparel did yesterday," wrote The Age newspaper under the headline "Crimes of fashion."

"Not since Andre Agassi's on-again, off-again affair with the chest hair wax has a player's appearance raised so many questions," it said.

Herald Sun columnist Mark Robinson noted the difference in attire between the showy Venus and her more demure opponent Martinez.

Martinez, who surprisingly managed to take a set off the U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, was dressed in a more traditional all-white outfit.

State of undress
"Her state of undress, where it appeared her skimpy bra/boob tube had somehow worked its way free of obligation, was in stark contrast to her opponent," Robinson wrote of Venus.

Venus's younger sister Serena sported a dress cut in more modest lines but in bright fuschia with matching shoes as the sixth seed crushed Taiwan's Janet Lee 6-1 6-4.

The 1999 U.S. Open champion described her big sister's outfit as "cute."

"A lot of people try to keep up with us, but it's pretty hard," Serena told reporters.

"We're the original... the first, the last," she said.

The Williams sisters weren't the only entrants in the fashion stakes.

Seventh seed Mary Pierce, who turned 26 on Monday, celebrated her birthday with a 6-1 6-3 win over unseeded Austrian Sylvia Plischke. Never one to be outdone, she made her own fashion statement in a 1970s-style pink and white creation.

"I think it's great to see everybody really getting into what they're wearing and getting involved in design and fashion and color," the 1995 Australian Open champion said.

Top seed Martina Hingis sported her new performance-improving outfit during the briefest of centre court appearances while demolishing Hungary's Katalin Marosi-Aracama.

Hingis wore a white top with one long and one short sleeve, but let her racket do most of the talking as she rolled past a nervous Marosi-Aracama in only 38 minutes.


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