Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Screenshot: Rafael Nadal, Hunk

I read somewhere not long ago that Rafael Nadal wouldn't be marketable as a world No. 1. Tell that to New York Magazine:

Take your time. It’s okay. That photo of Rafael Nadal on the back cover of this magazine is undeniably … what’s a polite way to put it? Arresting. The mussed locks curled just so above the shoulders. The biceps curved like a particularly ripe aubergine. The shadows playing across the deeply grooved abs. All demand extended scrutiny.

When you’re done, ask yourself this: Would Roger Federer ever pose for a photo like that?

Federer and Nadal, in many ways, are perfect foils. All-court finesse versus baseline power, fluid grace versus relentless will, Swiss precision versus Majorcan passion. And that opposition extends to their sense of style. Even if you’ve never watched a minute of their epic matches, a single glance at, say, the photo of them posing at net before the Wimbledon 2008 final would tell you all you needed to know. Federer wears a herringbone-patterned cashmere cardigan, emblazoned with a royal RF logo, and loose white shorts; Nadal is in a sporty sleeveless Nike-emblazoned top and shorts so long they’re practically Capris.

Male tennis fashion has mostly been conservative, built on frequent returns to the preppy classicism of Lacoste and Perry. Federer, who has an interest in high fashion—Anna Wintour famously attends his matches, features him in shoots, and throws parties for him—has flirted with that tradition like no player before. (At previous years’ Wimbledons, he has arrived at Centre Court in a white blazer.) So it’s perhaps appropriate that the year in which Nadal finally conquered him—the Spanish player assumed the No. 1 ranking last week—was also the year in which Federer’s look tipped over into full-blown prissy self-parody.

Nadal has made a point of saying “I don’t have anything to do with the design” of his clothes. Yet he’s managed to create what might be the most original look in men’s tennis history: sleeveless tees, shin-length pants, and bandannas tied with a cheeky flourish. Most tennis style revolutions have happened in the women’s game, from Gussy Moran’s lace-trimmed panties to Serena Williams’s skintight catsuit (see the time line here). Precedents for peacocking are pretty much limited to Björn Borg—known for his body-hugging outfits, headbands, and, for the time, prominent logo display—and Andre Agassi, who turned denim shorts, blond highlights, and garish color choices into a marketing tour de force.

Read the rest...

Here's the cover (click to enlarge to huge image):


Beth said...

What can I say? I will certainly be taking a long and lingering look at these pictures....sigh.....been following Rafa's career since 2004 and all I can say is he gets more talented and more attractive with each passing year. Thank you New York Magazine!!

oddman said...

Yeah, I read that too, Craig. By some know-it-all too - Rafa wouldn't be marketable in the US. Well, methinks Rafa's team is doing a pretty good job way over there in little old Bumville, oops, Manacor, Mallorca.

Is there an emoticon for 'HAH!' that I could insert here?

rabbit said...

I really have a hard time understanding why wearing a cardigan is such prissy behavior...Are all cricket players then prissy??

I personally feel though that selling Rafa for just his looks is a disservice. Roger is sold for his unique brand of tennis, and Rafa should be too.

Finally, as a Roger fan, it seems the ATP can't seem to get over the joy of finding Federer finally stumbling.

oddman said...

I agree with you, rabbit, about selling Rafa just for his looks... that's why I'm just a tiny bit surprised by these pics. And why I think in some photos, Rafa looks on the verge of laughing or discomfiture. Ultimately, his tennis will have to speak for itself, see Anna Kournikova. I really don't think he can or will go down that road very far IAC.

Re: your comment about the ATP, I didn't see anywhere that they mentioned joy in Federer stumbling. There's focus on the positive - Rafa attaining number one. Can you enlighten me? Did I miss something?

oddman said...

Oh, one more thing - the cardigan... it's standard issue for cricketeers, no? Same as those wee little bikini bottoms for women beach volleyballers.... not the usual wear for the court. I think it's more the contrast in styles when both guys are out there together. You know, swashbuckling pirate vs preppy genteel gentleman.

Craig Hickman said...

Sex sells. I don't see the problem.

As for the ATP: maybe their editors know something we don't.

But let's be real: Raja has been sold to us by every tennis expert imaginable as the Greatest Of All Time.

Suffice it to say, I feel no pity for him that the spotlight is now on someone else.

Rafa will be torn down soon enough. That's the way of the world.

vw said...

"Rafa will be torn down soon enough. That's the way of the world."

Rafa knows that. There used to be a song called "Get it while you can."

oddman said...

To borrow your phrase again, Craig:

Say it again.

Beth said...

Craig you are so spot on in your comments. Great way of putting it about Federer losing the #1 and Rafa acquiring it. oddman, I, too, was a bit surprised about the photo shoot with Rafa as he seems very shy and not really one to do a 'look at me' photo opportunity. Don't know how the New York Magazine shoot came about but I am NOT going to complain! Smile. And yes, Craig, sex sells. And for the record I don't think Rafa is the most attractive (if based on facial features) of any of the ATP players by a long shot. Yet there is something about his grit, his heart and determination, his mental tenacity, and, yes, his physical presence that - all put together - make for a very alluring male player. At least to this female fan.

Karen said...

Hey guys, as an ardent Roger fan I have to say that I am a little bit sad at the descriptions that are being used to describe Roger. I for one see nothing wrong in the way Roger dresses to go on court. I think it befits his role as a statesman of the game. Frankly speaking I think if you were to do a random poll of those who like Roger as against those who like Rafa you would find that the demographic would be age determinate. There are those of us ladies who do like a man who is suave, gentlemanly and as we say in Jamaica "puts himself together". Then again, there are those (and they will be mostly the younger set) who like the charisma and blatant masculinity that Rafa portrays in his on court and off court demeanour. This man about town swashbuckling pirate from Spain. As with most think, I like everything mellow and so I am a Roger fan. Appreciate the fluency of his strokes, and the way he wields his racquet etc. For me, I will take a fine wine anyday, over a lager. Nothing wrong with either, but at my age, I tend to enjoy the "aftermath", rather than the "act", and that is what Roger for me brings to the table.

Helen W said...

I gotta say that to me Rafa looked quite uncomfortable in some of those shots -- I don't think a male modelling career is in his future -- trying for the pouty sexy look was clearly a struggle for him. He looked like he would way prefer kicking a soccer ball around or going swimming with his girlfriend and splashing each other. (Please forgive the grammatical tangle.)

oddman said...

Spot on, helen. He needs some work, lol. Maybe Feli can give him some pointers, but yes, modelling as a future careera - no. Kinda reminds me of Maria Sharapova, who always tries so hard to look suave and sophisticated for the camera, with that pout - which always sends me into fits of laughter.

It's certainly something big and 'bang'y to showcase Rafa for New York, I guess.

Karen, I'm about as old as you, and I like a fine wine too. But, a cardigan just reminds me of Mr. Rogers, can you say 'frumpy'? I knew you could.

Karen said...

Oddman, it is just that Roger has this look about him as if he can handle anything and everything. Rafa, as we have seen sort of looks quite uncomfortable even doing a photo shoot. Clearly, he will grow into that role as the years roll on, then again, maybe he wont. Roger just looks to me as if he was born to the role of wearing cardigans (which as an ardent West Indian cricket fan is so not Mr. Rogers). Cricketers are lovely guys with really long bats who can play for hours and sometimes days at a time. LOL

oddman said...

Oooh, karen.......ROFLMAO!

(gotta find me a cricketeer...)

Craig Hickman said...

Let me be blunt:

I don't think a person's age has a damned thing to do with it.

People of all ages can SEE.

That's all I'll say about that.

Pamela said...

Is there a limit to what Rafa has to do to prove others wrong? He's marketable just as Fed is, but in a different way. Most women will look at Roger and see a nice man, excellent tennis player with a sophisticated style. I look at Rafa and a see a man, an athlete with muscles and a ferociousness that you don't see with Fed. That's not to say that one is better than the other, but there is just no reason to act like Fed is heart throb material to most women outside of tennis. I love Rafa, but he's not my type, but I certainly see the appeal.

Anyway, good for him considering he is so laid back and shy off court. The ATP is just doing what it should do, promote the sport. It's all about money for them, and Fed has ruled for 4 1/2 years and is still active, they've just made the point to appreciate the changing of the guard.

Are they not supposed to honor Rafa's ascension to the top?

Karen said...

Pamela, I agree with you. At the end of the day it is all about promoting the sport, but on a serious note, the tour execs can do all they want, but when the network execs do their darnest to not promote the sport then we have a major problem. Frankly speaking I think whatever works to get tennis out there is a plus for the sport. If it means that we have to sell sex, racquet wielding abilities, grace, elegance, fight, heart, mentality, drama, whatever it takes. Other sports do it, why not tennis.
Craig, I am aware that people of all ages appreciate both Roger and Rafa. The point I was referring to when I mentioned demographics had to do with the whole look. From what I gather from many boards, it is usually the younger set who like what they see in Rafa. There are a couple of older ones who do appreciate his fighting spirit and that whole sexuality and bravado that he brings to the court, but then there are others who do appreciate the gentility of a Federer, and to my mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It all comes down to a matter of taste.
Roger, it was I think who said that in order to promote the sport more fully, we would have to make tennis into a brand. He said that in order to take the sport global, we need to have dedicated sports channels that play tennis all day, every day. They should be there at every tournament, in every part of the world. It should be promoted in schools, inner city communities etc. To my mind, while everyone is arguing about who looks better doing what, we should really start lobbying efforts in every community to have more tennis in children's life. Contrary to what people may think, it is not that hard to teach tennis etc., and the with the rise of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes, perhaps this might be a way to have children out and about and playing a sport that uses every part of your body, including your mind.

Craig Hickman said...

I agree it comes down to a matter of taste.

When it comes to sex appeal, I don't think the age of the seer matters much.

That was my point.

It's not that deep, really.

Rafa is the new king of tennis for however long his reign will be.

Let the ATP and Rafa's folks promote him as much as possible. If that includes lots of photographs of him shirtless, all the better. And I say that not because I find him all that sexy, but because so many people do. It will be good for the sport. Especially here in the States.

oddman said...

'I don't feel the age of the seer matters much.'

Absolutely. And shirtless Rafa is really fabulous to look at. Agree with all your points, Craig.

I've heard stories already about young kids playing tennis who want to 'fight to the end' and emulate their hero Rafa. He's a great role model as well as a hunk.

tristann said...

Craig, Oddman:

I agree about the age of the viewer not being relevant. I'm in my mid-forties and all I can say is WoW. And he is hitting the peak years for a man's looks... Gotta quit calling him my boy.

As to the marketing, whatever brings fans to the game is fine with me. Even if they only come for the looks, some will always fall in love with the game.

Rafa has often been described as possesing that X-factor. He is not classically handsome, but to some people, very attractive nonetheless.

I am just hoping that the hype does not get out of hand and draw him away from what matters the most, which is playing great tennis.

Michael said...

What's with the wristwatch on Nadal on the cover of the magazine? Doesn't seem to fit, in my opinion.

Savannah said...

While I enjoy the pics we Rafa fans know he is basically a shy guy and is only doing this because he's been told it will advance the game of tennis. He's grumbled about some of the stuff he's done in the past.

That said it is nice to have the pics to drool over, I mean admire, despite his obvious discomfort.The most natural one is the one where he's smiling, his hair is wet, and he looks as if they caught him off guard.

Beth said...

I think the bottom line is that personality and image DO draw fans in apart from the tennis itself. Whatever it takes to gain interest in the sport - photo shoots, razor ads, whatever, I say go for it. And I think that many people would be surprised that Rafa's fan base is not just young ones. I am over 40 and I totally rock on him! I'm a very passionate Italian and his 'way' just goes with my 'way'. Yet I can very much appreciate Federer's elegance, sophistication and beautiful style of play. As far as Rafa vs. Roger goes, I think it's been absolutely wonderful to have this dichotomy in styles of play, looks and personality in tennis. It has absolutely drawn people to the game. If kids look at Rafa and Roger and want to be like them, that's fantastic! They are both great statesmen for this sport and represent very different ways of being 'the best'. I for one love Rafa's intensity, his overt masculinity and yet his humble nature. He absolutely has that X-factor despite not being the most attractive player by far. In fact, I have often thought he looked kind of neanderthal on court with his bandana, heavy brow, unruly hair and stampeding way on the court. So very different from Roger yet so enlivening. And then I can watch Roger and be equally mesmerized by his elegance, his composure, the lightness of his footwork, and the beauty of his racket swing. It's just ALL good no matter how you cut it. But, shyness, embarrassment or whatever he feels aside, would I rather see Rafa shirtless on a mag cover or Roger? Rafa will win every time!
Oh and michael, the wristwatch Rafa's wearing is from Time Force, a Spanish watch maker that he has been working with for several years now. Their line of watches is really, really nice and you will see him put his Time Force piece on at the end of every match. Here's their site: http://www.timeforce.es/

rabbit said...

And just to give the other side, I'm in my 20s and greatly admire Roger's brilliance on the court and the way he handles himself off the court.