Serena’s midriff, naval ring take center stage at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams’ latest on-court fashion statement is an attempt to “push the envelope” with a nod to classic tennis style.

So says Williams, the No. 1-ranked player who is baring her midriff and naval ring at this year’s Australian Open.

Williams designed the bright yellow outfit that features a T-shirt top snugly cropped and a pleated mini-skirt.

“I just wanted to think outside the box,” said Williams, who has never been called a fashion conformist. Some of her eye-catching tennis wear has included a faux leather black catsuit, studded hot pants, a denim mini-skirt with knee-high black socks and a variety of animal prints.

“I’ve been on tour for a long time,” said the 34-year-old Williams, who is appearing in her 62nd Grand Slam. “I just wanted to push the envelope again, just bring pop culture to tennis, kind of make it really fun.”

The six-time Australian Open champion and winner of 21 majors won her first Grand Slam in 1999 at the U.S. Open, just a couple years after her latest opponent was born. Williams wasted no time Friday, beating 18-year-old Daria Kastkina 6-1, 6-1 in 45 minutes, and maybe the outfit helped.

After the match, she was asked if she was chilly.

“It’s definitely not built for warmth, but it’s built for speed,” Williams joked on center court.

When the subject cropped up again in her post-match news conference, she explained the idea was to marry the “youth and fun-ness” of the pop culture world with tradition.

“I wanted a pleated skirt, because a pleated skirt is very classic,” she said.

Aside from that, Williams just loves short shirts.

“I live in a crop top, sleep in crop tops. I’m often never seen without one,” Williams said. “So I thought, you know, it would be really fun to play in one.”

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Sorribes Tormo beats 2nd-seeded Trevisan at Parma Open

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PARMA, Italy — Sara Sorribes Tormo beat second-seeded Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-0 in the opening round of the Parma Ladies Open – marking the third consecutive first-round loss for this year’s French Open semifinalist.

Third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu advanced when Viktoriya Tomova retired with Begu leading 7-5, 5-1.

Danka Kovinic beat Oceane Dodin 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and will next face 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Also on the red clay courts, Mayar Sherif of Egypt eliminated fifth-seeded Anna Bondar 7-5, 6-4; Elisabetta Cocciaretto defeated seventh-seeded Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-5, 6-1; and Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti earned her first tour-level win by beating Romanian qualifier Gabriela Lee 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.