By Jane Voigt
Juan Martin del Potro is a big man at six-foot-six inches. His nickname is ‘The Tower of Tandil,’ which refers to his home in Argentina. Given that massive man size, why in the world would Nike dress him in neon yellow from head to toe? For goodness sake the man looks like a human highlighter.
At least today Del Potro, and millions watching on every conceivable medium, was spared hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium when Dominic Thiem (No. 8) was forced to retire due to a bum right knee, 6-2, 2-3. Minutes later, though, Del Potro was seen — like how could you miss him — on a practice court, wearing the same kit.
Nike named the stand-out-and-scream yellow, ‘volt.’ It’s a hue that’s been in its tennis selections for years, which is not common for the giant leader in sports equipment and fashion. Usually colors swing from a pendulum every quarter, keeping retailers on their collective toes and ahead, hopefully, of the competition’s color choices. Remember, Nike prides itself on cutting-edge material, design and color.
To compound the sunglasses-required kit colors, most of Nike’s contract players are wearing it, too, women included. But, somehow it doesn’t look as offensive on Roberta Vinci.
There’s nothing wrong, mind you, with neon yellow or orange or green. But when it’s spread across the Flushing Meadows tennis center, then First Aid stations probably run out of aspirin earlier in the da.
Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, before he lost to Lucas Rouille yesterday, were not outfitted in volt. They are Nike top-tier players with hang tags that distinguish their personalized brands. Both have looked outstanding this Open, especially Nadal in his all-black evening attire. Serena has accented her block-pleated dress — Black and Hyper Pink evenings and White and Hyper Pink for daytime session — with tastefully matching compression sleeves, which she called her ‘wonder woman’ sleeves.
Nike, though, is not the only manufacturer that interjected the neon mood into this U. S. Open. Stan Wawrinka (No. 3), who is sponsored by Yonex for clothing and equipment, appeared in a bright – not quite neon – pink combination shirt and shorts. The shirt is named Yonex Men’s 2016 New York Day Polo. It retails for $65.00, a step below the screaming-meany neon shirt from Nike.
But let us not forget Wawrinka’s outfit from the spring of 2015, the year he won Roland Garros. Either you liked those plaid shorts or giggled wildly when you saw them. Nonetheless, many online vendors sold out and that’s the point. The white Wimbledon Nike dress got quite a hit upside its feathery features before the tournament began. Some players sent the dress back for adjustments while others tied it around the waste or wore Capris underneath so they weren’t exposed on court. Again, the dress sold out making Nike very happy and, well, richer.
No matter their attire, players are certainly more concerned with their performances. Del Potro, although mentioning that it’s no way to win a match when an opponent retires, moved to the quarterfinals where he’ll meet Wawrinka. If the Argentine advances to the semifinals, he’ll become the lowest ranked player at No. 144 to reach the semifinals of a Major since Vladimir Voltchkov at Wimbledon in 2000. He was ranked No. 237.
Del Potro won the U. S. Open in 2009, coming from behind in the third set to upset then favorite Roger Federer.