British tennis star Alicia Barnett has opened up about the stress of wearing Wimbledon whites while being on her period and the symptoms affecting her play.
Gloucestershire-born Barnett, 28, made her SW19 debut on Friday by winning her first-round doubles games alongside fellow team GB player Jonny O’Mara.
The duo will be returning to the grass courts on Sunday for round two against Venus Williams and Britain’s Jamie Murray.
Speaking with the PA news agency on Saturday, Barnett, from Painswick in Gloucestershire, said suffering with a “really heavy” period impacted her play in the qualifying matches for the Championships.
You’re trying to play world-class tennis but it’s really hard when you’re PMS-ing and you feel bloated and tired.
When asked whether the all-white dress code should be amended to alleviate stress on female players, she told PA: “I do think some traditions could be changed.
“I, for one, am a massive advocate for women’s rights and I think having this discussion is just amazing, that people are now talking about it.
“Personally, I love the tradition of all-whites and I think we will handle it pretty well.
“I think being on your period on the tour is hard enough, but to wear whites as well isn’t easy.
“But girls can handle it. We’re pretty tough when it comes down to it.”
Barnett, who is known by her friends as Lissey, added: “During the pre-qualifying, I was on my period and the first few days were really heavy, and I was a bit stressed about that.”
Asked whether it affected her ability to play, she said: “Definitely.
“Your body feels looser, your tendons get looser, sometimes you feel like you’re a lot more fatigued, sometimes your co-ordination just feels really off, and for me I feel really down and it’s hard to get that motivation.
“Obviously, you’re trying to play world-class tennis but it’s really hard when you’re PMS-ing and you feel bloated and tired.
“Why do we need to be shy about talking about it?
“I know men aren’t shy about talking about a lot of things.”
Barnett said she hopes the taboo around periods will continue to be worn down by players increasingly speaking about it, leading to funding for more female-focused research into training techniques.
When asked her thoughts on the impact of periods on sportswomen, Britain’s number six, Yuriko Miyazaki, 26, said it is “tough” for some players.
On whether the all-whites dress code should be sensitively altered, she said: “I’m not so sure.
“Obviously there’s a whole tradition about wearing whites at Wimbledon and it’s really classic.
“It is tough for some female players, but it’s something I’m just very used to.”
Reflecting on Friday, she said her first grand slam has so far been “amazing” and the atmosphere “electric”, and she wished her late mother could have been there to watch.
Barnett said her tennis-mad father, siblings and friends supported her during her Court 5 game, and her mother Jennifer Barnett, who died eight years ago, would have been the “loudest and proudest” on the side-lines.
“I think she would have loved this, and I know my dad is lapping it up and even though he makes fun of me, I know that he’s very proud,” she said.
“It helps you put things into perspective.
“Some days, losses, you take really hard, like yesterday in those ladies doubles where we lost six in the third, I really struggled to pick myself up because I really wanted to win.
“But then you realize where you are and put it into perspective and think, OK, life is short, let’s make the most of where we are right now.”