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How Tomas Berdych is shaking up tennis fashion

Date

Ravi Ubha

Hawaiian with hibiscus flowers: Tomas Berdych at the French Open.

Hawaiian with hibiscus flowers: Tomas Berdych at the French Open. Photo: Getty Images

Female tennis players have garnered much attention from the fashion-conscious in recent years, but at the US Open this week, eyes are sure to dwell on Tomas Berdych who plays Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.

Not since Roger Federer's cardigans, military jackets and tuxedo shorts has a male player's wardrobe generated as much chatter. The seventh-ranked Berdych, the only tennis player sponsored by the Swedish clothing retailer H&M, sported a striped blue-and-white shirt that resembled the jersey of Argentina's national soccer team at the Australian Open. He donned an even more provocative outfit at the French Open: a dark blue top with a print of Hawaiian hibiscus flowers.

"I was at Roland Garros, and there was a big buzz about the flowers," said Thomas Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion and now a tennis adviser with H&M.

Berdych at the Australian Open.

Berdych at the Australian Open. Photo: Getty Images

What is up Berdych's sleeve - or on it - in New York?

Like celebrities who keep the masses guessing before they walk the red carpet at the Oscars, Berdych, 28, was not giving everything away.

"All I'm going to say," he said, "is that it's probably not the most bold, but the simplest, outfit of this season" at the Grand Slams, not including Wimbledon, which required predominantly white clothing and severely restricted his options.

Consultant: Ester Satorova, girlfriend of  Berdych.

Consultant: Ester Satorova, girlfriend of Berdych. Photo: Getty Images

"The main colours are going to be gray, white and orange," he added.

H&M is not a typical supplier of tennis apparel, but H&M and Uniqlo - another clothing retailer and relatively new entrant into the tennis world - appear to be making inroads in a sector traditionally dominated by Nike and Adidas.

Nike and Adidas still dress most of the top players, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray. But Uniqlo, owned by Japan-based Fast Retailing, signed No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in 2012 and Asia's top male player, Kei Nishikori, a year earlier.

The Swedish uniform at the Sochi Olympics.

The Swedish uniform at the Sochi Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

Djokovic and Nishikori, both once clothed by Adidas, continue to use Adidas shoes, and Berdych plays in shoes made by Nike, his previous clothing sponsor.

But on television, shirts emblazoned with company names and logos usually receive far more exposure.

"We love competition as it drives us all to push the boundaries and make the best product possible," David Malinowski, Adidas America's tennis category manager, said in an email.

He added that Adidas' partnership with Stella McCartney on a line of women's clothing and footwear "has been fantastic in adding style and fashion to our performance line of women's products."

H&M's decision to delve into tennis stemmed from, among other factors, the sport's global nature and its "successful history of combining sports with fashion," Gustav Karboub, H&M's sport and tennis global marketing manager, said in an email.

As part of its push into sports, H&M provided clothing to the Swedish Olympic team at this year's Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. It will also produce a line for Sweden's team at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

This year, no man on tour could come close to matching the boldness of Berdych's floral offering in Paris. His peers had mixed reviews.

"There are guys who come up and say they really like it," Berdych said. "The others, they want to make fun of it. That's something I never experienced before."

He added: "It's not very often or not very usual that people come up and comment on the outfit of the other guys. If you achieve that, it means it's special and different, and that's the goal of those lines, those collections and the whole idea of H&M making the stuff."

Berdych said his clothing contract with H&M, announced in January 2013, was better financially than his previous deals, but he insisted that what he wore on the court was not an afterthought.

He consults his girlfriend, model Ester Satorova, when pondering looks from H&M, which also carries a line of David Beckham clothing.

"There are two points of view," said Berdych, who, like Federer, has had practice and warm-up attire with his name and initials on it. "One is that it doesn't matter, that it's more important what you do on court.

"For me, it's different. Tennis is an individual sport. You're the only one on the court, and every time you go on court, you want to feel good."

Given his interest in fashion, Berdych, who is from the Czech Republic, was the perfect fit for H&M, Johansson said. "Tomas is very involved with everything we do with him," Johansson said.

"He's actually one of the few guys who takes a little bit of time before he goes out for dinner, for example. He always dresses really well."

Karboub, without revealing numbers, said H&M had struck an ace in its partnership with Berdych.

"I can't go into specific figures for the tennis collections, but the whole sport concept is going very well, and we are very happy with the reception from our customers," he said.

The New York Times

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