British tennis player talks 'really heavy period' and Wimbledon whites: 'Some traditions could be changed'

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·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·7-min read
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British tennis star Alicia Barnett on Wimbledon and playing on her period, pictured. (PA Images)
British tennis player Alicia Barnett opens up on Wimbledon, menstruation and the dress code. (PA Images)

Alicia Barnett has talked candidly about the impact playing Wimbledon while on her period can have on her performance and how the all-white dress codes aren't ideal.

The Gloucestershire-born British tennis star, 28, made her debut at The Championships on Friday when she won her first-round doubles game with fellow GB player Jonny O'Mara, 27.

The pair then beat Jamie Murray and Venus Williams on Sunday.

Barnett, from Painswick, opened up over the weekend about how having a "really heavy period" affected her tennis abilities in the qualifying matches for the world-renowned tournament.

When asked whether the dress code should be amended to reduce stress on menstruating players, she told PA, "I do think some traditions could be changed."

Read more: Carole Middleton's Wimbledon outfit included a subtle nod to daughter Kate

Alicia Barnett during their Mixed Doubles second round match with partner Jonny O'Mara on day seven of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Sunday July 3, 2022. (Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images)
Alicia Barnett opens up the conversation on whether the all-white dress code should be altered to be more accommodating. (Getty Images)

"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," she said, opening up the debate on the topic.

"Personally, I love the tradition of all-whites and I think we will handle it pretty well."

However, she added, "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, known by her friends as Lissey, also recalled, “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.”

On whether it affected her ability play, she responded, "Definitely".

Britain's Jonny O'Mara (R) and Alicia Barnett react as they compete against Britain's Jamie Murray and US player Venus Williams during their mixed doubles tennis match on the seventh day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2022. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Jonny O'Mara and Alicia Barnett compete against Britain's Jamie Murray and US player Venus Williams on 3 July, 2022. (Getty Images)

“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," she explained.

“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.

Read more: Emma Raducanu's Wimbledon loss: Expert tips for coping with pressure

Britain's Jamie Murray (BOTTOM R) and US player Venus Williams (BOTTOM L) compete against Britain's Jonny O'Mara and Alicia Barnett during their mixed doubles tennis match on the seventh day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2022. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Jamie Murray and Venus Williams lost to Jonny O'Mara and Alicia Barnett during their mixed doubles tennis match. (Getty Images)

While her father, siblings and friends supported her during her Court 5 game, she said 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," she added, referencing how, while difficult, she was able to pick herself up from a ladies double loss on Friday and appreciate where she was.

Yuriko Miyazaki in action against Caroline Garcia on day one of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Monday June 27, 2022. (Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Yuriko Miyazaki also joins in the debate on the all-white Wimbledon dress code. (Getty Images)

Also speaking on the impact of periods on sportswomen, Britain's number six, Yuriko Miyazaki, 26, agreed it can be "tough" for some players.

Sharing her thoughts on whether the all-white dress code should be altered in some way, 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.”

Read more: Wimbledon: Why does everyone eat strawberries and cream?

Yuriko Miyazaki and partner Sarah Beth Grey of Great Britain interact during their Women's Doubles First Round match against Asia Muhammad of United States of America and Ena Shibahara of Japan on day three of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Yuriko Miyazaki and partner Sarah Beth Grey of GB during their Women's Doubles First Round match against Asia Muhammad of USA and Ena Shibahara of Japan, 29 June 2022. (Getty Images)

But while it may be talked about more now, periods affecting sports players' abilities isn't a new phenomenon. In 2015, British tennis star Heather Watson attributed her defeat in the first round of the Australian Open to her menstrual cycle.

"I think it's just one of these things that I have, girl things," Watson, 22 at the time, told BBC Sport.

She said she suffered from symptoms like dizziness, nausea, low energy levels and spells of feeling light-headed as she lost 6-4 6-0 to Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.

Watson called for the doctor near the end of the first set and was clearly struggling as Pironkova won the rest of the games.

"It's really frustrating, especially at the one time I really do want all my energy and to be 100%," said Watson.

"But it happens and you're dealt with different cards on different days and I should have dealt with it better. It's a real shame and it sucks."

Former British tennis number one Annabel Croft described Watson's comments as "brave and that women would "identify completely" with her experience.

"Women's monthly issues seems to be one of those subjects that gets swept under the carpet and is a big secret," she said at the time.

"Women dealing with these issues at any time is hard enough, but actually trying to go out there and trying to play top-level sport at one of the most crucial times in the calendar year. It is just really unlucky.

"I think women do suffer in silence on this subject. It has always been a taboo subject."

Watch: Emotional Katie Boulter dedicates Wimbledon win to late grandmother

Of course, the effect is similar in different sports. British Olympic athlete Eilish McColgan told BBC Sport in 2019 that she had to pull out of a race in Rome the year before when she got her period, pulling her hamstring shortly after.

"I'd taken my period and I felt flat, heavy, tired," she said.

"I got home and I was frustrated to have dropped out of a race for the first time. I went on the treadmill and did a really hard session.

"It didn't help that I'd been sitting around all day travelling, and then taken my period, but two days later I pulled my hamstring. There's no doubt in my mind it was all connected.

"They scanned it and the radiologist said he'd never really seen that much inflammation in one muscle before."

Read more: Wimbledon: Photos of the Royal Family holding court over the years

But progress is being made in some areas. Football player Fran Kirby previously spoke about how she and her Chelsea FC team mates sync their training regimes with their menstrual cycles, using the 'Fit For Women' monitoring app to log their symptoms, and adjust things like nutrition and schedules.

“It can affect you so much, whether it’s your coordination or your reaction time – which is so vital in so many sports," Kirby said in a video for Women's Health in 2019.

The Wimbledon dress code rules for players include, "Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround", "White does not include off white or cream", and "The back of a shirt, dress, tracksuit top or sweater must be completely white".

The Wimbledon website also states, "Any undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration) must also be completely white except for a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre (10mm). In addition, common standards of decency are required at all times."

Some campaigners are calling on the Wimbledon Board to #AddressTheDressCode, with periods in mind, supported by a change.org petition.

Additional reporting PA.

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