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Serena plays dress code close to line

Serena Williams cranks a backhand.
by Sarah Edworthy
Tuesday 26 June 2012

Two mini-rain breaks provided time to reflect on that all-important subject of player fashion. This year’s awards for sartorial subtlety go to Novak Djokovic for the discreet purple and green lines that adorn the shoulder and arm seams of his new Uniqlo kit; to Roger Federer for retaining his status as a standard-setter in the well-accessorised dapper look (purple and green double lines around the collar edge, with matching headband and daubs of colour on his shoes); and to Maria Sharapova whose white pleated-hem dress with lawn-green trim is an elegant nod to the fact she is striving to win on the emerald sward of SW19.

But is that a striped top Tommy Haas is wearing out on Court 19? And surely Serena’s cerise shorts/knickers and matching headband count as bold?

Yes, it’s time to address the White Clothing Rule for players again. These are the facts: the ‘predominately in white’ rule was introduced in 1963. The ‘almost entirely in white’ rule became valid in 1995. Clothing is submitted to The AELTC for comment earlier in the year. Both Grand Slam and WTA rules stipulate recognised tennis attire. Decision on the day as to whether clothing/players’ turnout is suitable at discretion of the Referee.

Guidelines given include: no solid mass of colouring; little or no dark or bold colours; no fluorescent colours; preference towards pastel colours; preference for back of shirt to be totally white; preference for shorts and skirts to be totally white; and all other items of clothing including hats, socks and shoes to be almost entirely white.

Haas, who once pioneered the sleeveless look, and Williams, a proud fashionista, are experienced players who know how to play their dress code tactics deep into the corners and close to the line. We are not talking scandalous lace-trimmed knickers a la Gussie Moran more than 60 years ago. Or even the ‘What the Deuce is she wearing?’ crazy style of Bethanie Mattek Sands.

Confusion seems to have arisen from a) the news earlier this year that the Club dress code will not apply to the Olympic tennis competition which will be held on the premises three weeks after the end of the Championships. And b) the number of players-at-practice photographs that have been beamed around the world - and captioned “So-and-so at Wimbledon” – of Maria Sharapova knocking up in an all-black ensemble, Novak Djokovic in a scarlet T-shirt, Bernard Tomic in navy-blue and grey, Roger Federer in grey sweats, Nikolay Davydenko in a cobalt blue shirt and Andy Murray in all colours of the darker end of the spectrum – black, grey and blue.

If the Dress Code is a club rule, I hear you ask, why is it not also enforced on the practice courts within the Club grounds? Good question, which sent me scurrying to the Club spokesman. He pointed out that the Competitors’ Rules are specific about the particular courts on which the rule holds sway. The ‘predominately in white’ rule holds when players have a hit on Championship courts, but not when they knock up on the designated practice courts. Listed No.9 in the Conditions of Entry & Participation, is this clarification: “For all matches (except for the warm-up period), and for practice sessions on Championship courts, each individual item of clothing must be almost entirely white in colour. Any competitor who appears on court dressed in a manner which is deemed unsuitable by the Committee will be liable to be defaulted.”


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