It doesn’t get more iconic than Serena Williams showing up to her final US Open in a black custom, crystal-encrusted Nike outfit.
Last night, the tennis pro, who announced her retirement from the sport earlier this month, played the first match of her last tournament in New York City, coming out with a win against Danka Kovinić of Montenegro.
In front of a crowd of fans, friends, and family, Williams made an entrance in a bejeweled cropped sports jacket, layered over a matching tennis dress with sheer sleeves and a detachable black-and-gold glittered train. She styled the look with a dazzling headband—also designed by Nike—and black PE NikeCourt Flare 2 sneakers embellished with diamond-encrusted Swooshes, shoelaces, and diamond deubré shoelace tags from her Serena Williams Jewelry brand (solid gold, 400 2.0-carat diamonds, and black ceramic, and that spell out QUEEN and MAMA).
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Nike, as it has for many years, collaborated extensively with Williams on the look.
“Working with Serena is an honor, it is a blast, and it is an adventure,” Carly Ellis, the lead apparel designer at Nike, tells BAZAAR.com exclusively. “Serena expects nothing less than to push the boundaries, and to quote her, ‘Every time I see a design from Nike, I expect it to be better than the last.’ This expectation not only gives us permission for the ultimate creative freedom, but she has made me a better designer.”
The dress Williams wore, which features a crystal-encrusted bodice with a V-shaped cut where it meets the six-layer skirt, was inspired by figure skating apparel. The six layers are a reference to Williams’s six Flushing titles. The jewels on the bodice, meanwhile, are meant to represent the night sky at the US Open.
“For the first time, Serena prepared a brief for me, as well as sketches,” Ellis says. “She loves the grace, strength, and sheer skill of ice dancers, and was really inspired by the embellishments their costumes are known for. So we worked into several different designs, combining her ideas; experimenting and ideating. I knew this had to be perfect. Once we had her dress dialed, we, of course, wanted to build in some surprises for the Queen, which came in the form of the crystal-emblazoned train and bedazzled jacket.”
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Ellis says the look entirely embodies Williams, as it mirrors her bravery, uniqueness, and bold beauty—and, yes, it is also very extra, in the best way.
“Serena is the greatest. She is known for redefining the traditionally more stuffy, boring world of tennis, both in terms of what is possible and what defines traditional tennis apparel. She wanted this dress for the US Open to be unforgettable, but she wanted a different kind of disruption,” Ellis adds. “Her key word was iconic. No matter what Serena played in last night, she would have made it iconic. The moment would have made it historic.”
As Williams walked onto the court last night, witnesses stood in the stands giving her a standing ovation. When it was time to play, she removed her jacket and train, then took out her tennis racket.
To wrap up the match, the US Open shared a tribute to Williams in the form of a video with speeches from Oprah Winfrey and tennis champion Billie Jean King, as well as a “We ❤️ Serena ” poster stunt put on by fans in the stands.
Husband, Alexis Ohanian, and daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., joined in the applause from the stands—the four-year-old looking adorable in a mini version of her mother’s sparkling tennis dress and tiny white beads finishing her braids.
Ellis says, “There are no words that can summarize the pressure and responsibility that come with designing a piece of history, for the Greatest of all Time. But every moment I have spent on it, even in times of pressure and problem solving, is a delight to be relished for the rest of my life.”
Williams revealed the news of her retirement from tennis in an emotional essay published in Vogue this month, writing candidly about the point she is at in her life—and the balancing act she plays every day, trying to be both the world-renowned star athlete she is on the tennis court and the mom and wife her family needs her to be.
She said that though it was not an easy choice to make, she is ready for the next phase and looking forward to expanding her family.
“But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” she wrote. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.