There was a subtle moment of history on Centre Court, as reigning champion Elena Rybakina took full advantage of the relaxed dress code by wearing dark shorts.
Rybakina, who is the third seed at Wimbledon, recovered from a shaky start to win her opening round-match against Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday. But both Rybakina and her American opponent were united in one thing: Electing to wear black undershorts.
Then, later on the main court, second seed Aryna Sabalenka beat Panna Udvardy 6-3 6-1, and both also opted for dark bottoms.
Last November The All England Club took the decision to allow women to wear darker undershorts to combat potential period anxiety, and this is the first tournament players have had the new liberty.
“I think it’s good to have an option, but the same time I was also fine with all white,” Rybakina said afterwards. “I think changes are good, and we still have the same tradition to be in full white. It’s just maybe little adjustment. Overall I think it’s good, yeah.”
On Monday former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka was the first player to take to the court in dark green shorts under her white dress, along with Czech player Linda Fruhvirtova, and said: “I appreciate the non full-white rule for the girls. I think that was an important step. I think that’s very thoughtful.”
The tournament has previously been extremely strict in employing their all-white traditional dress code, which was conceived in the 1800s to minimise sweat stains.
Former Russian player Tatiana Golovin claimed to accidentally defy the rules when she wore red shorts in 2007, prompting the club to clamp down on the rules. Even King of the court Roger Federer was pulled up for wearing shoes with orange soles in 2013, while last year’s runner-up Nick Kyrgios drew headlines for wearing a red cap during the final trophy ceremony on Centre Court.
The rule change only applies to undershorts for women, and follows a similar trend in football.
The England team switched their shorts to dark blue for this World Cup after forward Beth Mead said the all-white kit was sometimes impractical at last year’s European Championships.
British player Heather Watson, who has previously been open about her nerves around wearing white at Wimbledon, said on Sunday that the rule was “forward thinking” but does open up new dilemmas.
“When they announced the new rule, I thought this is great,” Watson said. “This is forward thinking, this is so helpful. And then I thought, shoot, everyone’s going to know when I’m on my period – but I’m so open about it anyway, I’d probably let all of you know without even asking the question!
“I guess consistency is key then, so you’ve got to stick with the black all the time or something. But broadly obviously [it’s] positive, absolutely. You didn’t ask, but in Eastbourne I wore black shorts, so it really helped.”
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