… Nike threw one such event Thursday to unveil its night looks for the tournament at Manhattan’s Skylight Studios at Moynihan Station, hosted by Rafael Nadal, in town a few days ahead of the tournament’s open Monday in Flushing Meadows, Queens. WWD ducked into a soundproof back room in the cavernous former post office to talk with Rafa about dressing for the New York nights and his expectations for the tournament.
How would you describe your fashion off the court?
Rafael Nadal: I’m a classic guy. I like to wear jeans, polo shirt, normally. To go out, it depends on the situation, or if I am in the winter or I am in the summer, no? If I am in the winter I like to wear jeans, shirt and jacket. If I am in summer, I like jeans and T-shirt or jeans and polo. Classic.
So how does that translate to the court?
R.N.: [On the] court, I am not that classic. Court is a little bit different. I like the bright colors. I like the powerful colors on court.
Do you ever go sleeveless off-court?
R.N.: Sleeveless? [Laughing] No. That’s only on court…and to go to the beach sometimes.
Is there anything about this tournament in particular that you feel like you have to take your style in a different direction, whether it’s because you’re playing at night or in New York?
R.N.: I don’t like to play in dark colors [usually]. You can see through the whole year, I don’t play in brown or dark blue, black or gray but here in New York, the night session is special. A lot of times, I like to wear dark colors in the night: I like the all black, the all gray.
Do you notice when you put all black on, does it give you a different vibe?
R.N.: It’s powerful. During the night session, you feel power. All the lights. The court is the biggest on the tour. The atmosphere here is one of the special ones. The crowd is very loud.
Is it just that the noise level is different, or is there something else about the crowd in New York?
R.N.: The noise. The noise is different. Here, it’s a little bit like show. In Europe, the two grand slams are more traditional, but here the fans are very emotional and it’s very special.
Speaking of New York and this tournament, you have to feel good coming in. You’re playing remarkably well on hard courts lately.
R.N.: You never know what’s going on. But it’s true that I am having a great season, much better than I ever dreamed seven months ago. I am happy the way I played this summer on the hard court. In Montreal and Cincinnati, I played at a very high level, and I hope to have the chance to keep playing well here.
Any secrets as to why you’re playing so much better on the hard courts this year?
R.N.: I think I am playing well. You know, the stop last year gave me an extra power mentality and I am little fresher mentally than ever to compete in the right moments. But I think I am working the right way, and I really feel that I am playing well.
It’s exciting, looking at the draw, there’s a chance you might see Roger Federer in the quarters. Have you thought about that at all yet?
R.N.: The quarters are four matches away. Four matches in a grand slam, and a tough tournament like this one, are very difficult. It’s very difficult for me to think quarterfinals before playing the first round. We’ll see. It would be great if that happens. But it will be a lot of work for both of us.