It’s going to be strange but also exciting, says Maria Sharapova. Serena Williams doesn’t quite know how she will feel about it. Forget the beach volleyball outfits at Horse Guards Parade, or any sprinters wearing gold spikes. It will be the competitors’ choice of clothes and shoes in the south west of the city, at the All England Club, that will attract the most attention and comment during the London Olympic Games.
For the first time, tennis players who step on the Wimbledon grass wearing coloured gear will not be politely asked to return to the locker-room to change into something ‘predominantly white’ (during this summer’s Championships, Victoria Azarenka had to change after she initially wore a yellow T-shirt on the practice court).
Players will have the freedom to wear any colour they choose at the All England Club. It will be the strongest reminder, for any casual viewer who flicks on to the tennis, that they are not watching a second ‘regular’ Championships at the Club, but something different. You can be sure that a lot of planning will be going into what some of the players will wear for the Olympic tennis tournament; Sharapova is one of those who would never just throw an outfit together on the morning of a match (“I planned my outfit some time ago – it’s based around the colours of my country”). Expect something classy from Sharapova, who at past white Wimbledons has worn outfits inspired by swans and men’s tuxedos: “I think it’s really exciting, and will be a little strange and fun to wear colour at Wimbledon. I’m looking forward to it.”
Players, and their country’s clothing suppliers, will have put a great deal of thought into this. Most will playing in their country’s colours. Roger Federer will be wearing a red polo shirt with the ‘RF’ logo on the sleeve and the Swiss Cross on his chest, with white shorts, and red and white shoes, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be wearing a blue shirt, blue shorts, and red shoes. Part-time clothes designer Venus Williams has looked to the Stars and Stripes for inspiration: ‘It’s the Olympics, and so it won’t be another Wimbledon, so that’s what makes it different. We’ll be wearing team colours. Red, white, blue – and hopefully gold.”
Images have already been released of how Andy Murray will be dressed for the tennis, in a red, white and blue outfit designed by Stella McCartney, and also of Caroline Wozniacki’s red Olympic dress.
For Serena Williams, playing at Wimbledon in anything other than ‘predominantly white’ will be “weird”. ‘I don’t know how I will feel about playing tennis at Wimbledon during the Olympics as I understand that we won’t be wearing white. I’m going to feel weird not wearing white at Wimbledon. I absolutely love wearing white. When I played at Eastbourne once, I wasn’t wearing white and that didn’t seem right – I felt as though, as I was on grass, I should be wearing white.” At first, it will look a little odd – there is no stronger brand in tennis than the clothing rule at Wimbledon – but it will be a once-in-a-generation glimpse at an alternative tennis universe.