Caroline Wozniacki has claimed the onus falls on players to “be creative” while honouring Wimbledon’s all-white tradition after the most flamboyant dresser in women’s tennis took a swipe at the All England Club.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a dedicated follower of unorthodox fashion whose outfits can make Lady Gaga look conservative, accused the Wimbledon organisers of “picking at people” for allowing the smallest hint of colour on their garments.
The heavily tattooed 30-year-old was a shock second-round winner against Serbian seventh seed Ana Ivanovic on Wednesday, and has since joked she feared whites that had been washed too often would be considered “illegal”.
But Wozniacki, whose Wimbledon dress features netting and partly exposes her midriff, claims the rules are there for good reason, and urged players to wise up to the possibilities that white provides.
“At the end of the day, it’s Wimbledon, so you go by the rules. If they say it’s all white, it’s all white,” said Danish fifth seed Wozniacki.
“You have to accept that and try and be creative anyway.
“We’ve tried to do that with my dress. I think every tennis player enjoys to play with a tiny little bit of colour. At the end of the day, we do that every other week of the year. It’s fun to try to be creative even though you have to wear white.
“It’s a fun challenge. I like challenges.”
Mattek-Sands battled through qualifying to earn a place in Wimbledon this year, and is a photographers’ favourite wherever she plays. She donned an extraordinary jacket at Wimbledon in 2011, covered in tassel and tennis balls sliced in half and painted white, and even wore black for her own wedding.
She is not alone in criticising the restrictive dress code, with Roger Federer having addressed the issue during the French Open, when reflecting on his own colourful outfits.
Federer said in Paris: “Obviously it’s going to change when Wimbledon comes around because rules have become ridiculously strict over there, and I love Wimbledon, but they have gone too far now.”
In London, Federer carefully sidestepped the issue earlier this week.
“I will agree with Roger. I’ll jump on the boat with Roger,” said Mattek-Sands.
“It was funny, because I was actually Googling some players like when John McEnroe played, Arthur Ashe, they had colour everywhere. They had colour on their sleeves, big stripes, they were coming out in coloured jackets. So I feel it’s actually gotten stricter.
“So I think it’s a little much when Ivo Karlovic had to paint a little bit of his shoe white. That’s a little much. I think for the most part everybody that has come here has been pretty much all white, more than 95 per cent I would say, and they are still kind of picking at people for a certain stripe.”
Wimbledon has a ten-point dress code. The first decrees: “Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround.”
Mattek-Sands added, correctly: “You can’t even wear off-white or cream. I was going to joke about that. I was like, if you wash your whites too many times, they will be illegal. Better be washing it in cold water.
“I have, I think, one legal pair of shorts that is on rotation, hopefully in cold water. One skirt, I think, that’s legal.
“It is tough to be creative here at Wimbledon. I keep the high socks going and hopefully have some other stuff at the bottom of my bag right now.”