A TSD Classique: Federer to Play in Throwback Slacks, Sweater and Loafers

 

Save for the wood racket (and predilection for pre-pubescent boys), Roger Federer models new look after Big Bill Tilden.

MIAMI (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) Hot on the heels of his victory at Indian Wells,  the world’s number 3, Roger Federer, heads into the Sony Ericcson, considered by many to be the “fifth major,” with the wind at his back.  His recent play has not only revived  talk of his return to top form, but rekindles the debate:   is Federer the greatest player of all time? Some argue that he’s the best since the open era began in 1968, when professionals were allowed to compete with amateurs.  The argument becomes increasingly complex when one considers the game’s evolution, from the more genteel sport played in slacks and sweaters to the breathtaking pace of today’s game.

While he’ll never have the opportunity to compete against the Bill Tildens, Don Budges and Rod Lavers – giants of the pre-open era (Laver played in both) – Federer is determined to show he can perform at the highest levels on tennis’s grandest stage in the restrictive throwback garb seldom seen outside of a Ralph Lauren ad.

“Nike sent me a prototype yesterday — we’ll have to do something about the sweater, as I’m highly allergic to virgin wool and it’s impractical in the Florida sun… the slacks don’t break right, the shoes are a bit stiff, and while the scarf is a nice touch, it’s not really my style,” said Federer. “I practiced in it for two hours. I’ll admit, it’s not ideal for today’s more demanding game…but I like the fact that you can walk off the court and go straight to dinner without changing. It’s a real time-saver.”

Tennis gadfly Bud Collins likes the concept, but believes Federer is putting himself at a competitive disadvantage.

“I guess if  anyone can chase down balls wearing loafers, slacks and a sweater, it’s Roger,” shrugged Collins. “I just hope it’s not the beginning of a trend, particularly among juniors who idolize the man. Their parents are already shelling out for lessons and coaching and travel…the last thing they need is a huge dry cleaning bill.”

Should Federer win wearing vintage garb, Collins believes he will have dramatically strengthened his claim as the best ever to have played the game.

“Absolutely. And it goes beyond symbolism. Let’s put it into perspective: imagine Kobe Bryant stepping onto the floor in vintage short shorts and throwing in 38 points despite the lack of crotch room modern players have grown accustomed to.  I don’t know about you, but I would find that very impressive.”

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