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Serena Williams debuts ‘Black Panther’-inspired outfit at French Open

The "catsuit" doubles as protection against blood clots

Serena+Williams+of+the+U.S.+returns+a+shot+against+Krystyna+Pliskova+of+the+Czech+Republic+during+their+first+round+match+of+the+French+Open+tennis+tournament+at+the+Roland+Garros+stadium+in+Paris%2C+France%2C+Tuesday%2C+May+29%2C+2018.
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Serena Williams debuts ‘Black Panther’-inspired outfit at French Open

Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Michel Euler / Associated Press

Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Michel Euler / Associated Press

Michel Euler / Associated Press

Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

HOWARD FENDRICH, Associated Press

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PARIS — Serena Williams considers the black bodysuit she wore at the French Open much more than a fashion statement.

There’s a practical reason for the full-length legs on the skintight outfit: to protect her because of past bouts with blood clots.

There also is a message she wanted to send about self-worth and feeling powerful as she returned to Grand Slam action with a first-round victory at Roland Garros on Tuesday, about nine months after giving birth to a daughter.

“It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically, with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves,” Williams said after beating Kristyna Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier. “I definitely feel like it is an opportunity for me to inspire a whole different group of amazing women and kids.”

The outfit called to mind Williams’ black “catsuit” that she wore at the 2002 U.S. Open. It also was reminiscent of the white bodysuit that American player Anne White wore in 1985.

Williams referred to what she wore Tuesday as the “catsuit — the new version, 2.0.”

“I call it, like, my Wakanda-inspired catsuit,” referring to the fictional nation in the film “Black Panther.”

Williams said she feels “like a warrior princess, kind of,” when she wears the outfit.

“I’m always living in a fantasy world,” she added. “I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero.”

Tuesday’s match was the first at a major tournament for the 23-time Grand Slam champion in 16 months.

She gave birth on Sept. 1, then dealt with complications related to a pulmonary embolism.

“I had a lot of problems with my blood clots, and, God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So it is definitely a little functionality to it.”

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Serena Williams debuts ‘Black Panther’-inspired outfit at French Open