A viral TikTok post helped changed Wimbledon’s all-white clothing rules. And former world No.20 Daria Saville isn’t done changing how sports think about women’s periods.
Daria Saville would like to think one of her more revealing social media posts helped to change Wimbledon’s traditional all-white clothing policy and allow female players to wear menstruation-friendly underwear of their choice.
“I made a TikTok about it and it kind of went viral, and then they changed the rule, so I was like ‘maybe that helped!’,’’ says Saville, the former world No.20, who is preparing to return this month from a ruptured ACL.
“Girls started talking about it on social media, then I kinda replied – talking about my experience and how some of us girl tennis players in the locker-room, especially between our friends, would be like, ‘Can you check my skirt? Is it all good?’ So things like that.
“I still respect the all-white rule, but it’s nice that it’s a bit relaxed now. If you’re wearing good quality clothing, the skirt will be white enough, even if you wear black underwear.
“I don’t think there should be a rule on what kind and colour you want to be wearing for your undies.’’
There is enough to stress about as a professional tennis player, Saville points out, and the possibility of leakages such as she has experienced previously, as have many of her peers, adds an unnecessary source of anxiety.
Indeed, the influential TikTok post included sharing the experience with her almost one million followers that “instead of freaking out about my period, I would just do extra days on the pill and skip it’’. A level of personal reveal that not every athlete would be comfortable sharing is Dasha’s way.
“That’s just my personality. I’m always very open and I don’t shy away from being a woman and having periods. It’s a normal thing,’’ she says.
NO REASON TO HIDE
As the sports world, generally, awakens to the importance of women’s health in optimising performance and avoiding injury, Saville is unfailingly honest about what for so long was something of a taboo subject, and also candid during pre-training conversations with coaches who ask daily how a player is feeling, in body as well as mind.
“I’m not shy about it. If I’m uncomfortable I’ll be like ‘Hey, well, I actually have period pain’. So I think it’s really important to make the female athletes feel like you can talk about it,’’ she says.
“Like, you don’t have to come up with something else. If you have period pain it’s important to specify that you have period pain, and not ‘OK, I have back pain’. And it’s also on the coaches — especially male coaches, I guess — to be educated on it. I think it’s really important.’’
The 29-year-old is one of the few tennis players to work with a female coach, as long-time Tennis Australia staffer Nicole Pratt remains part of her team along with US-based Jay Gooding. Saville has also received research on the impact of the menstrual cycle from TA, which has complemented her own.
Having competed as an Australian since the end of 2015, and married fellow tennis pro Luke in 2021, Russian-born Saville has noticed a shift in period-related candour among the Aussies in the locker-room.
“I’m obviously coming from a European background, but I remember ages ago when talking about periods with Aussie girls, they all went quiet about it, so I think also it’s a little bit cultural,’’ Saville says. “I feel like European girls just talk about it.’’
As, last year, did Queenslander Priscilla Hon, recalling her experience in the 2014 Wimbledon junior doubles semi-final of feeling so distracted by a discomfiting leak during set two of a televised match that performance became secondary to the fear that blood would seep through her bike shorts onto her white skirt.
FIGHTING HER WAY BACK
This month, Saville hopes to return to the All England Club, using the injury-protected ranking of No.55 she had rebuilt following Achilles surgery during a successful 2022 that came to a premature end in Tokyo last September.
A mishap on landing after a crosscourt forehand in the opening game against Naomi Osaka meant a second, devastating, reconstruction of the same knee, her left, that was injured in 2013.
Yet what would be her seventh main draw Wimbledon campaign will be the first where there is no longer a requirement for women players’ underwear to be “completely white except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre’’ since that rule change announced in December.
Saville’s reaction? “I think it was like ‘OK, that makes sense. Thank you.’ You feel more like ‘OK, I don’t need to stress about packing white undies. It just makes life easier for us girls.’’
And her likely feelings when she prepares inside the famous ivy-clad walls of SW19 to walk out for round one?
“I would hope I don’t have my period, that’s to begin with, so I don’t have to worry about it, but if I did have it, I’d be happy to have control of what underwear I choose to wear,’’ Saville says.
“And I might choose to wear all-white, but the fact I can choose to wear whatever the hell I want to wear, that’s nice.’’
Originally published as Tennis star Daria Saville wants to smash taboo around sport and periods amid Wimbledon change
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