WIMBLEDON, England — While most celebrities go incognito behind a hat and sunglasses, Serena Williams uses a different tactic to blend into a crowd: long sleeves.
During an appearance on Home Shopping Network for her clothing line, Williams said that one particular long-sleeved garment would help her go unnoticed in public.
My arms are really fit, but I wanted to cover them, because when I do people don’t recognize me as much, she said.
Williams, who will be vying for the Wimbledon title against Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to.
Despite Williams’s success — a victory Saturday would give her 21 Grand Slam singles titles and her fourth in a row — body-image issues among female tennis players persist, compelling many players to avoid bulking up.
It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10, said Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, who is listed at 5 feet 8 and 123 pounds. Because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.
Radwanska, who struggled this year before a run to the Wimbledon semifinals, said that any gain in muscle could hurt her trademark speed and finesse, but she also acknowledged that how she looked mattered to her.
Of course I care about that as well, because I’m a girl, Radwanska said. But I also have the genes where I don’t know what I have to do to get bigger, because it’s just not going anywhere.
For many, perceived ideal feminine body type can seem at odds with the best physique for tennis success. Andrea Petkovic, a German ranked 14th, said she particularly loathed seeing pictures of herself hitting two-handed backhands, when her arm muscles appear the most bulging.
I just feel unfeminine, she said. I don’t know — it’s probably that I’m self-conscious about what people might say. It’s stupid, but it’s insecurities that every woman has, I think. I definitely have them and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I would love to be a confident player that is proud of her body. Women, when we grow up we’ve been judged more, our physicality is judged more, and it makes us self-conscious.