Venus's risqué dress fashions a stir beyond the baseline

World No 2's lace outfit and skin-coloured underwear turn heads as American breezes into third round

It is eight years since Venus Williams reached her only final here, but for the first three days of the French Open no woman has drawn as much attention as the 29-year-old American. Williams is playing her most consistent tennis for years, having returned to No 2 in the world rankings, though it is not her backhands and forehands that have been the focus of interest, despite the impressive form she showed yesterday in beating Spain's Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-4.

Glamour and fashion have always been integral parts of women's tennis and Williams has been maintaining that tradition with the dress she has been wearing here. The front page photograph in yesterday's official programme showed her in the outfit that has caused quite a stir in one of the world's great fashion centres. The No 2 seed has been playing in a revealing black lace dress with a plunging neckline and bright red straps that some might consider more appropriate to the dance floor than a tennis court.

Williams designed it herself in order to "represent what I think my personality is on the court". The dress is risqué enough, but underneath it Williams has been wearing skin-coloured underwear, giving the occasional illusion of flashes of flesh. A poll organised by one website showed that 40 per cent of voters thought she should be forced to change her outfit, while one reader suggested that she "looked more like Uranus Williams".

However, Williams insisted yesterday that "the design has nothing to do with the rear". She explained: "It just so happens that I have a very well-developed one. It's all genetic. If you look at my mum and dad, you'll see the same thing happening. If you look at my sister, you'll see the same thing. It's genetic.

"But it's really about the illusion. Like, you can wear lace, but what's the point of wearing lace when there's just black under it? The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful."

When she has not been designing clothes Williams has been interviewing personalities for her new book, Come to Win, which will be published next month. "It's really about how sport changes your life," she said. "We did a lot of interviews with a lot of great people, fashion designers like Vera Wang and politicians like Bill Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, how they started out in sports and how it made a huge difference in their life.

"Obviously they didn't become professional athletes, but they became great people in their field. So [the book is about] the lessons that sport taught them and how they even still apply to what they do now."

With rain showers interrupting play later in the afternoon, Williams was no doubt happy to be first on Court Philippe Chatrier. The American, who was serving at speeds of up to 125mph, earned a third-round meeting with Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova thanks to a decisive victory over Santonja, whose double-handed grip on both flanks looked clumsy but did not prevent her hitting some telling ground strokes.

The 27-year-old world No 59, who has never gone beyond the third round here, made a fight of it until Williams broke serve in the seventh game of the second set. The decisive point was expertly played by the American, who drew her opponent into a moonball rally before sprinting forward to hit a winner with characteristic power. She completed her victory after an hour and 35 minutes with a service winner.

"I thought the courts were playing slower than my first round, so I definitely had to work the point a little more," Williams said. "She's scrappy, so she's going to throw up high balls, a slice, hit with some pace. I didn't know exactly what ball to expect. She definitely kept me on my toes. Overall today I just thought I played the bigger points, especially on my serve, really well. I think that was key."

This is Williams' 14th visit to Roland Garros, but she has been beyond the quarter-finals only once, when she was beaten by her sister Serena in the 2002 final. However, she has been in excellent form this year, having won 28 of her 32 matches. The sisters, who are again playing doubles here, are back at Nos 1 and 2 in the world rankings for the first time for seven years.

Aravane Rezai, who beat Williams in the final in Madrid earlier this month, also reached the third round, but was well below her best against Germany's Angelique Kerber. The Frenchwoman, who was in control until her concentration seemed to be broken by a rain break, needed an hour and 43 minutes before completing a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory.

Rezai, who beat Williams, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic en route to the Madrid title, now plays Nadia Petrova. The Russian had few problems against Hungary's Agnes Szavay, winning 6-1, 6-2.

Elena Baltacha pulled out of the women's doubles, in which she was due to team up with Latvia's Liga Dekmeijere. The British No 1 wants to treat the back injury that first troubled her in Stuttgart last week.

"I've been advised that I should rest a bit longer," Baltacha said. "With the grass-court season just about to start, it would be silly to risk any more problems."

Men's singles Yesterday - First round: X Malisse (Bel) bt S Greul (Ger) 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 6-4. Second round: R Federer (Swit) bt A Falla (Col) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-4; R Soderling (Swe) bt T Dent (US) 6-0 6-1 6-1; A Montanes (Sp) bt T Kamke (Ger) 6-3 6-2 6-1; V Troicki (Serb) bt C Ball (Aus) 6-4 6-3 6-3; M Cilic (Croa) bt D Gimeno-Traver (Sp) 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2; J-W Tsonga (Fr) bt J Ouanna (Fr) 6-0 6-1 6-4; M Youzhny (Rus) bt L Lacko (Slovak) 6-7 (8-10) 6-3 6-3 6-2; L Mayer (Arg) bt J Benneteau (Fr) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-4 6-4; T De Bakker (Neth) bt G Garcia-Lopez (Sp) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Tuesday's late results: First round: L Hewitt (Aus) bt J Chardy (Fr) 7-5 6-0 6-4.

Women's singles Yesterday - Second round: N Petrova (Rus) bt A Szavay (Hun) 6-1 6-2; A Amanmuradova (Uzb) bt J Larsson (Swe) 7-6 (7-2) 6-2; V Williams (US) bt A P Santonja (Sp) 6-2 6-4; D Cibulkova (Slovak) bt V Lepchenko (US) 4-6 6-2 6-0; A Dulgheru (Rom) bt T Bacsinszky (Swit) 6-4 6-2; F Pennetta (It) bt R Vinci (It) 6-1 6-1; M Kirilenko (Rus) bt Y Meusburger (Aut) 6-3 6-3; A Rezai (Fr) bt A Kerber (Ger) 6-2 2-6 6-3.

Tuesday's late results First round: M Sharapova (Rus) bt K Pervak (Rus) 6-3 6-2; O Sanchez (Fr) bt S Perry (US) 7-6 (7-4) 6-0; K Date Krumm (Japan) bt D Safina (Rus) 3-6 6-4 7-5.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower