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Nadal rejects Nike’s wardrobe change for now

Hours before his first U.S. Open match Monday, Rafael Nadal decided that his game was more important than his wardrobe, telling his advisers and corporate sponsor Nike Inc. that he wasn’t ready for an image makeover after all.

Over three days the exuberant Spanish star known as Rafa had practiced in a new wardrobe that included such radical adjustments as shirts with short sleeves and pants that stopped above the knee instead of a few inches below.

But Mr. Nadal ultimately decided that his first match at the final Grand Slam event of the year wasn’t the right setting for his planned sartorial reinvention — particularly after he had captured two Grand Slams, Olympic gold and the top spot in the world rankings in his old garb.

“Frankly, Nadal is on a roll,” said Kilee Hughes, a spokesman for Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike, which designs Mr. Nadal’s clothes. “We listen to the voice of the athlete.”

Nike had unveiled Mr. Nadal’s new look after months of careful planning that began with a trip by Nike’s design team to the star’s home in Majorca, Spain. The company put its new lightweight shirt through “numerous discussions and wear-testings” to ensure that it wouldn’t hinder his performance, and it created shorts designed to “move with him — from baseline to net — without chafing or bunching up.” It praised the final ensemble as a look that “balances his casual off-court personality with the technical precision and passion he brings to the game.”

Nike’s Ms. Hughes said Mr. Nadal’s change of mind was “not a setback at all” for Nike but rather the byproduct of a “highly unusual” schedule. She said Mr. Nadal is still committed to switching to the new gear, perhaps at one of the smaller tournaments after the U.S. Open.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that after months of consultation with designers at Nike and his management team, Mr. Nadal had decided to shift his image. Now that he was the top player on the planet, Mr. Nadal was ready to bid farewell to the adolescent muscle T-shirts and Capri-style pants that had garnered nearly as much renown as his lightning strokes and adopt a more traditional tennis look. WSJ

Good for Nadal! Right now he should avoid the mistakes that players of the past have made - getting too caught up in their sponsorship. Ultimately, he should focus on practice and not on doing interviews on the new clothes, etc. Yes, that was a cheap shot at Federer, who finally is blaming lack of practice on his inability to fend off Nadal and others this year.

I suspect Nike just wants to put a stop to the wedgie picking, which I am convinced is now just a habit of Nadal’s game and won’t be going anywhere. They know they aren’t selling any man-capris with the wedgie pick being mentioned in any article about them.

Leave the traditional tennis wear to Federer. He seems to like the ridiculous cardigans.

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