By Don Jozwiak
Updated: September 6, 2012
As the U.S. Open went into a rain delay Tuesday night, I was happy for a chance to get a second look at the instant classic between Victoria Azarenka and Sam Stosur. As I was watching, my lovely wife and 8th-grade daughter — tennis players both — joined me around the flatscreen. We admired Azarenka’s backhand and Stosur’s gutsy shotmaking. But mostly the conversation sounded like a hardcourt version of Project Runway.
This led to a full-on Google Images-fueled critique of women’s court fashion as filtered through the 2012 U.S. Open. The Open is always fun for the eyes, coming off the starchy whiteness of Wimbledon, along with this year’s extra serving of bland thanks to the Olympics. New York brings out the fashion forward looks from all the apparel companies, and this year is no exception.
So, thanks to my two-woman judgement juggernaut and a few observations of my own, here’s a look at who’s fierce and needs to work harder at making it work at this year’s Open:
Sam Stosur: The judges weren’t big fans of the barely-there tennis dress, but a lack of coordination was the real unforced error. “Look at her visor — it’s a different orange from her dress! Didn’t the company (Asics) have months to get ready for this? That just looks bad.” Yes, you’d think the company clothing the defending champ would sweat the details a bit better.
Victoria Azarenka: The No. 1 seed’s outfit was fine, but color was a problem here, too. “What’s with all the highlighter yellow this year? It looks like the 80s, and not the good part.” This follows on many negative comments about the fluorescent Nike shoes that were omnipresent during the Olympics. The younger member of this ad hoc focus group enjoys the bright colors more than the others, by the way, as the 80s are novel and not nostalgia to her.
Serena Williams: Speaking of the highlighter colors, Serena was penalized a point for overuse of screaming yellow with her otherwise well-received navy blue and pinks singles skirts. Especially the yellow hairband. “The dress looks great, but the hairband is just too much. I like a little splash of it on her skirt, and maybe her hair tie. But the hairband hurts my eyes,” said my wife. My daughter, for her part, likes the contrasting undershorts Serena is sporting. Or, to quote her directly: “Those are booty shorts, Dad, and she rocks them.”
Venus Williams: If the U.S. Open were judged on style instead of points, Venus would already be the champ. The pink, white and black pieces she’s worn from her recently relaunched EleVen clothing line are cool, clean aces according to my experts. “She looks so elegant. The colors and cut really look good on her, and she looks athletic without looking like she’s on her way to the gym,” said my wife. Added my daughter, “I love that she has lots of details in the pattern, like flowers and words. But it still looks like a simple pattern, not a mess. Can I get that?” (Venus did cause concern with her large hoop earrings in an early round match. Exactly one point after my wife wondered if she ever got her earrings caught on anything, she did — one snagged on her necklace and was pulled out of her ear. We now advocate a no-jewelry policy.)
Ana Ivanovic: She’s been sporting versions of the signature adidas look for this Open, which are based on bright yellow with a spindly pattern of light blue, green and salmon. This basic outfit has logged plenty of airtime, and has deeply divided our judges. My wife thinks it’s an abomination, especially when worn as a yellow shirt with the not-quite-matching mint green skirt. My daughter thinks the pattern is “really cool, kind of feathery … I’d buy that. Can I buy that?”
Roberta Vinci: It’s the little things that make a winner, and the details elevate Vinci’s Nike outfits from bland to memorable. My daughter likes the flash of fluorescence (of course) around the hips, while my wife likes the angled neckline of her tennis tank.
Overall, the biggest complaint out of my armchair fashionistas was a lack of style. They thought too many women in the Open look like they’re going to the gym or for a quick yoga session. This is not the fortnight for wearing bland tanks and skirts that could have come off the rack at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Or, as my daughter put it, “You know everyone’s going to be watching you. Why would you want to look like everyone else?” I may not know much about fashion, but I know that advice is a clean winner.
Don Jozwiak still has his beloved Prince Spectrum racquet from high school, but not his Pat Cash-inspired mullet. Don is an award-winning sports writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience covering tennis and most other ball-and-stick games. He lives in Farmington Hills, Mich., with his wife, Rebecca, and their tennis-playing children, Sophia and Jackson. You can follow Donon Twitter (@djoz) or catch up with him on his personal blog (donjoz.posterous.com).