Venus Williams (AP)Whether it was the canary yellow lattice-style top she wore at the Australian Open last year or the racy red-trimmed black dress she donned at the French Open months later, Venus Williams' grand slam attire has sometimes turned heads for all the wrong reasons.
Venus Williams (Getty Images)
Maybe that's why the colorful rose print dress she wore in her opening-round U.S. Open match Tuesday evening seemed tasteful and demure by comparison.
Yes, it was a bit non-traditional by tennis standards. Yes, the print of the fabric might be just as well-suited for a sofa or set of drapes. But the self-designed dress looked flattering on Williams as she overpowered fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
What will be more important to Williams than the positive reviews for her dress is that her game inspired plenty of compliments as well. Behind a potent first serve and powerful ground strokes, she overcame a few tentative early games and dismantled Mattek-Sands in the second set.
The strong performance takes on added significance because this has not been an easy year for Williams. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that she announced at last year's U.S. Open, the 32-year-old lost in the first round at Wimbledon and the second round at the French Open, suggesting that perhaps her days of contending at high-profile events were behind her.
Williams showed signs of life during the hard-court season in reaching the semifinals at Cincinnati earlier this month, but duplicating that sort of run at the U.S. Open will require some of her biggest wins in recent memory. Up next for Williams on Thursday is sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber, the fast-rising German star who eliminated Williams at the Olympics.
If Williams can spring that upset in the second round, she could easily emerge as the sentimental favorite at a grand slam that has produced plenty of those in recent years.
It would be a great story if it happens. And this year, she'd be well-dressed for the moment too.