Tennis legend Serena Williams may be playing in the final US Open of her career, as she prepares to face off with her sister Venus in the doubles competition tonight. So the 23x Grand Slam champion received a very lovely present from Nike — a bunch of custom Air Force 1s.
Serena uploaded a video of herself opening different boxes of sneakers, but the one inspired by Abloh was the one that meant the most. They employ a green-and-purple motif, with her name inscribed on them.
“Oh my goodness, it’s nothing less than the Virgil outfit. I loved Virgil so much and I still do,” she said before recognizing that the pale purple colorway pays homage to the lavender tutu she wore in the 2018 US Open match where she beat Germany’s Carina Witthoeft.
All of the sneakers represent memorable moments in her career, with one pair even made of denim which pays homage to her 2004 US Open appearance.
Earlier this year, Serena participated in the Off-White 2022 Fall Show to honor Abloh. But she wasn’t always so sure of herself rocking his visions. “Virgil was so much more than a collaborator, he was a friend, an innovator. I really wish I wore the magnificent skirt he made for me in 2018. You saw it before me Virgil, we will keep your legacy alive,” Williams wrote on her Instagram this past June.
“I still kind of regret not doing what Virgil told me to do,” she reiterated said in a short film for Vogue. “He wanted me to wear this long skirt with the crazy train, and then a cape with a train, and then just walk out on the court. And I’m thinking, ‘Virgil, I like fashion, and I like pushing the envelope, but this — I just don’t think I can do this.’”
But Abloh spoke highly of Williams in a 2018 interview with As If, calling her “one of our generation’s most powerful, inspiring athletes as the muse.” The pair collaborated on a special collection with Nike called “Queen.”
“I was trying to embody her spirit and bring something compelling and fresh to tennis… What I love about tennis is the gracefulness. It’s an aggressive and powerful game, but it takes touch and finesse,” the late designer added. “So the dress is feminine, but combines her aggression. It’s partially revealing. It’s asymmetrical. It has a sort of ballerina-esque silhouette to symbolize her grace. It’s not about bells and whistles and tricks. It’s just about it living on the body, and expressing Serena’s spirit with each swing of the racket.”