Style Points Flashback: Serena Williams wears banned Cameroon kit at 2002 Roland GarrosBy May 30, 2022
Style Points: Coco Gauff's New Balance signature shoe empire keeps expandingBy Nov 15, 2022
Style Points: Tory Burch reveals how BJK Cup’s ‘Billie Blue’ winner's jackets came togetherBy Nov 13, 2022
#tbt: When the Elite 8 missed the memo, and 11 more memorable ATP Finals official portraitsBy Nov 10, 2022
Wimbledon’s all-white dress code to be relaxedBy Nov 09, 2022
#tbt: The Elite 8 that never was, plus 10 more ‘iconic’ WTA Finals photoshootsBy Oct 27, 2022
Style Points: Leylah Fernandez leads Team Lululemon in US Open doublesBy Sep 04, 2022
Style Points: How Rafa, Serena, Coco and more transition from on-court to off-duty in NYCBy Sep 03, 2022
Serena Williams takes the US Open court in diamond-encrusted Nike outfitBy Aug 30, 2022
Style Points: Pickleball fashion finds its niche amid sport’s boomBy Aug 17, 2022
Style Points Flashback: Serena Williams wears banned Cameroon kit at 2002 Roland Garros
It’s not often that the World Cup overlaps with the French Open. But when it happened in 2002, a 20-year-old Serena Williams turned heads with a classic Puma kit in support of the African champions.
Published May 30, 2022
WATCH: The Break: Fashion Review at Roland Garros
Who wore what? Style Points breaks down the latest collabs, kits and fashion statements from around the tennis world.
Twenty years ago this month, two of the biggest sporting events on the global calendar converged when the 2002 World Cup took place during the same weeks as Roland Garros.
True to form, Serena Williams understood the assignment perfectly.
The 20-year-old, then ranked world No. 3 and still outfitted by Puma, arrived in the French capital seeking her second Grand Slam title. But like most players, she had the World Cup on her mind, too—and so did her sponsors.
During her opening two matches at Roland Garros, Serena showed her support for the Cameroonian national team with a custom tennis kit inspired by the same controversial Puma uniforms that Samuel Eto’o and the Indomitable Lions wore in Korea and Japan.
“All Serena Williams was missing were the shin guards,” the Los Angeles Times wrote at the time.
Indeed, Serena looked like she could have gone from Stade Roland-Garros directly to Stade de France, as she rocked a sleeveless green dress trimmed with red, black and yellow, which prominently featured the Cameroon crest. The look was completed with a pair of red peekaboo undershorts, yellow high socks, matching green and yellow shoes, and a coordinating headband.
“Since I always wear sleeveless things, Puma came up with this idea for me during the French Open to wear the Cameroon outfit, which is really exciting,” Serena explained during a post-match press conference.
Serena had even requested to wear the number 26, a nod to her birthdate, on the back of her dress but the request was denied by tournament organizers.
“I was reading an article where it says that Cameroon is everyone’s favorite team,” she added. “[Even] if you’re supporting England, a lot of people have this love for Cameroon because they’re always fighting so much it seems. They’re the best African team.”
While newspapers at the time reported that Serena had “shocked traditionalists” with the head-turning outfit in Paris, Cameroon's kits also caused a stir in Korea and Japan too.
For extremely boring reasons, FIFA banned the Cameroonian squad from wearing their signature sleeveless shirts. (“They’re not shirts, they’re vests,” said a FIFA spokesperson at the time.) When the Lions arrived on the World Cup stage, players still wore the same shirts—but with black sleeves under their “vests” in protest.
Much like team Cameroon, Serena made a sartorial switcheroo of her own after the opening rounds in Paris.
She swapped the soccer-inspired kit for a shimmering black and gold number with gold trim and matching shoes from the third round until the final, where she clinched the first of her career's three Roland Garros victories, and the second Grand Slam in what would become an Open Era-record haul of 23 singles titles.
But it wouldn’t be the last time that outfits worn by Cameroon or by Serena generated controversy.
Cameroon were fined $154,000 and docked six points from their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign for wearing one-piece green and red Puma bodysuits—this time with sleeves—which FIFA president Sepp Blatter said were “against the laws of the game”.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Serena’s own sleek black Nike bodysuit was also banned from Roland Garros for not “respect[ing] the game and the place,” according to FFT president Bernard Giudicelli. The debacle echoed the scandalized reaction Serena had received at the 2002 US Open, when she wore a sleeveless, short black leather catsuit by Puma that caused a stir en route to winning the title.
Regardless of what exactly sleeves and bodysuits have to do with laws and respect for the game, one thing is clear: Puma was throwing down some iconic tennis and football outfits in the early-to-mid 2000s. It’s a shame that while the German brand has remained deeply entrenched in football, they’ve pulled away from professional tennis entirely—leaving fans to only wonder about the kinds of kits that could have shaken up center courts around the world in recent years.
(Puma, if you’re out there… come back?)