At about 2:20 p.m. last Thursday, pro tennis turned a strange new corner. During his postmatch press conference, someone asked American hopeful Robby Ginepri if he was planning to wear a skin-tight sleeveless shirt on court anytime soon.
"If they want me to, I will," Ginepri said, referring to his clothing sponsor, Under Armour.
"I would have thought with your ripped torso, it would look good on you," the male reporter replied.
And with that, it became clear that the sport, long a laboratory for countless risky fashion experiments, had embraced a trend best expressed in a runway lingo that can declare, straight-faced, that "black is the new black."
Men are the new women.
This is the first U.S. Open in which menswear overshadowed all talk about skirt length and sequins, Serena Williams's catsuit or Anna Kournikova's style-over-substance career. Rafael Nadal's Aquaman tank top--perfect, it turns out, for showcasing a fist pump--made it respectable for the men's draw to embark on inane discussions about capri pants and skin exposure and fabric swatches. Past U.S. Opens have produced individual disasters (Andre Agassi, remember, once showed up dressed as a pirate, in gold earrings, a bandanna and sideburns), but Nadal was hardly alone this year: Nearly every court featured some player flashing his manly guns. Once the bastion of guys nicknamed Muscles (Ken Rosewall) or Jimbo (Jimmy Connors), tennis today is all about looking for Himbo.
"It's the tipping point," said Billie Jean King, the sport's expert on breaking sexual barriers. "We're much more alike than we used to be. Why not? I love it. I just wish I could see more of their legs."
With equality, however, comes wretched excess. On Sunday, Slovakian star Dominik Hrbaty beat David Ferrer while wearing a bizarre black-and-pink T-shirt with holes cut out to reveal his shoulder blades. "If that catches on," said CBS commentator Mary Carillo, "I'm quitting this game." --S.L. Price
CHUCK SOLOMON (NADAL)
MATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES (HRBATY)
Nadal's clam diggers (above) and Hrbaty's shirt were the talk of the Open.
AP (OLD TENNIS PLAYER)