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.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little