We’ve been so busy with team sports over the past month or so (stretch-run baseball, the start of the NFL and college football seasons, the relentless flood of new NHL designs) that I completely ignored the U.S. Open tennis tourney. And that’s a shame, because we happen to have a bona fide Open operative right here in our midst: Gabe Ganot, who’s been working as a ballboy — okay, ballperson — at the Open since 1999, giving him an ideal vantage point for uni-watching. That’s him in the photo shown above.
Gabe sent me a good rundown of observations a few weeks ago, which I’m finally getting around to sharing with the rest of you. Check it out:
- Almost all players wear one outfit per tournament. But Federer this year had two — a “day” and “night” selection. The night attire featured the “Man in Black” look with a black headband, black shirt, shorts, socks and sneakers. This as opposed to the day outfit, with a blue shirt, white shorts, white sneakers, and a blue headband. People were wondering what he was going to do for the final, because it was scheduled to start in the late afternoon and it was still light out. I think he was quoted as saying since the lights would eventually be on, he would go with the Johnny Cash look. Note that his sneakers have the three Swiss flags commemorating his three U.S. Open wins the last three years (I think it also says something on the tongue). Roger also has the tendency to constantly brush imaginary hair from his forehead and adjust his headband.
Nadal, I’m pretty sure, has the worst OCD of anyone on the tour, and not just uni related. Before he serves, just about every point, he has the David Wright-esque habit of picking his wedgie. The other ballpersons and I wonder why he continues to wear the capris if he has to adjust his pants every point. He also adjusts his hair/headband with the same frequency. Other examples of his OCD include placing his drink on the same exact spot during every changeover, and sprinting out to the baseline for warm-ups.
You’d think that the folks at Lacoste would make Andy Roddick a nice-fitting shirt. Instead he has to constantly adjust it, nearly every point, to make the shoulders drape correctly (similar to the way most volleyball players do). This has been happening for several years now. He also has taken a liking to wearing his hat a little sideways, à la Pokey Reese or Mike Cameron. It’s not an accident — I’ve seen him take it off and be very particular about the way he puts it back on.
Its also interesting see how doubles teams dress. Sometimes, teams go all out and match every single part of their outfits, down to the sneakers, like the Bryan brothers. Other teams wear what they would normally wear if they were playing singles, while others come up with a completely different outfit, like Justin Gimelstob in his mixed doubles team with Ashely Harkleroad. Speaking of Gimelstob, he apparently sweats like there’s no tomorrow, so he tends to change shirts around five or six times a match. And speaking of sweating, some players are obsessed with the towel. Nadal, for instance, asks for it pretty frequently on a hot day, and Roddick can be the worst. This ballboy would like to see some sort of integrated towel technology, like certain wide receivers have.
It’s also been interesting to note the ball-holding technology for women over the last decade (insert sex joke here). When I first started being a ballboy, most women just asked for one ball to serve instead of two like the men (men have pockets, so they usually ask for two and put one in their pocket in case they fault on their first serve). Some women would ask for two and just shove one of them into the bottom of their underwear, and after a game I’d have to go pick up a slightly damp ball. Others went with the plastic ball holder (famous example: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario), which was essentially a belt that had a little plastic thingie that sat right on top of the butt. These days, the women have slightly longer undergarments, kind of like the compression shorts basketball players wear. These have pockets, so that makes my job a little easier.
When I first started, almost all women wore the simple tennis skirt and some sort of top. Then Serena hit the scene, and now we get horror stories, like look at Bethanie Mattek’s outfit from this year’s Open. She does something like this at every tournament. It also seems like the ladies have a contest to see who can wear the shortest skirt and the like.
It’s also kind of weird to see some players who aren’t sponsored and end up having different parts of their outfits from several manufacturers. I forget who, but someone this year had something like an Adidas shirt, Nike shorts, and Champion socks.
With regards to equipment, there’s nothing too crazy, but some funny stuff. For instance, instead of the traditional shock absorber that most players have on their racket, some players use an ordinary rubber band. Not sure why. No player I saw wore regular glasses, only a handful had sunglasses on (Arnaud Clement and Alexa Glatch come to mind), and a few went with the bright sunscreen on the nose. Also, while most players bring at least five or six rackets with them to the court, I noticed that Mark Knowles liked to just tape on a new grip instead of going with a new racket. Not sure the reasoning for that.
As for our Polo-brand ballperson uniforms, they’re a welcome change from the Fila garbage we had several years ago, which were in outlandish colors and make us look ridiculous (plus you try running around in 90-degree heat in a thick cotton polo that’s too large, shorts that are too tight, and sneakers that can literally blow up if you plant too hard). The new ones are a nice moisture-wicking material with a good form-fitting shape (we don’t have to tuck in anymore!). But we are essentially walking advertisements — in addition to the 6-inch Polo logo on the chest area, we have a full 12-inch logo on the back, making us look like real product whores. Additionally, with around five days to go in the tournament we were mandated to begin wearing Polo wristbands, which was odd, because they never told us to where on the arm to wear them, unlike everything else which is by the book. The only change the Polo unis have had over the years is that they change the color of the vertical striping on the shirt and and shorts (this year it was yellow; in the past it’s been red and white).
Big thanks to Gabe for all that info. Still want more? Vince (who provided several of the photos links above) notes that this tennis blog has lots of fashion coverage.
Reqeust Request: I’m working on a column devoted to uni-related typos. I’ve got all the classics covered (Angees, Torotno, Nayv, Nigger Ilsand, etc.), along with the assorted nameplate misspellings that have periodically been called out here on the blog. If you know of any others, old or now, that we haven’t discussed, please let me know. Thanks.
Fall Back (into bed): The annual moving of the clocks is still a month away, but Uni Watch likes to be ahead of the curve, so…. As those of you in the Eastern Time Zone are well aware, I usually get the day’s entry up by 9 a.m., which is an arbitrary deadline that I set back in the site’s early days. Well, not completely arbitrary — I was trying to (a) motivate myself and (b) get you folks used to the idea that you could depend on fresh content being ready for you at the start of each day.
After a year and a half of this, during which it’s now become routine for me to be eating my breakfast in front of the computer while frantically making last-minute changes to the Ticker, I’d like to reclaim a bit of breathing room for my mornings (and, by extension, for my late-night hours). So beginning next week, my new arbitrary self-imposed daily deadline will be 10:15 a.m. Among other things, this should make it much easier for me to catch up on the previous night’s comments, deal with Ticker contributions that come in overnight, and so on.
I know some of you eastern folks have grown accustomed to starting your day (read: goofing off at work) with Uni Watch, but I have faith in your abilities to find other productive uses for the 75-minute window that fate has just handed you. Just pretend I moved to Chicago or something, OK? OK.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Lots of good stuff currently available on eBay, including this patch, this ad, this uniform, and this jersey. … Latest schools to go with the System of Dress: Maryland and Miami (with thanks to Jose Frontanes and Mike Alper, respectively). … Another new NHL mask: Marc Andre Fleury. … Good overview of the NFL captains’ patches — including a shout-out to Uni Watch — here. … Interesting article here about the Rochester Amerks new uniforms. Key quote, from team prexy Steve Donner: “RBK is integrating vertical striping into the jersey, and they wanted to do away with all horizontal striping. It wasn’t our suggestion to remove the stripes.” … Bizarre purple/green/yellow color scheme exhibited by Waukegan High in Illinois (with thanks to AJ Brandt). … Ouch. … Tons of old high school team photos, from a wide range of sports, here (with thanks to Brendon Yarian). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: The LPGA has changed its logo from this to this, which strikes me as a major improvement. Details here. … Also from yesterday: The NHL and Reebok held a conference call on Tuesday to address the growing chorus of player complaints about the new uniforms (the latest of which can be found in the middle of this article). Details here. … Good article here about the Sharks’ goalie masks. … Still more All Blacks soap operatics (with thanks to Caleb Borchers). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: The people at New Era are really, uh, outdoing themselves. … Dan Schulman, who’s doing ESPN Radio’s play-by-play for the Bosox/Angels series, mistakenly stated during last night’s game that Jason Varitek is the only current MLB captain to wear a “C.” Schulman forgot about Mike Sweeney.