When he first blazed onto the international tennis scene, Rafa was as well known for his guns as he was for his forehand. In 2009, the same year as his last Aussie Open win, Rafa made a fashion decision with Nike, ditching his trademark singlets in favour of a more mature, Federer-esque look.
Fashion is big business for tennis brands, and high profile players such as Nadal, Federer and Murray play enourmous roles in the trends, and the resulting dollars their sponsors stand to make in merchandise sales. Creating a signature style is crucial for players and their personal brands. Fans clamour to snatch up their favourite players’ look and equipment, and Nike has been a long time beneficiary of Nadal’s appeal, forking out over US$10million to sponsor him in 2017.
The return to old-school Rafa will no doubt result in continued huge sales for Nike, and could see a wave of younger players follow suit. Sleeves or not, we’re fine with this return, as long as the Nadal ¾ pants stay in the history books.