When the pirate-pants wearing Rafael Nadal came of age on clay
Rafael Nadal made the world sit up and take note when he won the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters as a teenager.
The 18-year-old prodigy beat defending champion Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 in three hours and seven minutes back in April 2005 to secure his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy.
The New York Times said “Nadal came of age”, adding “this was the week when he showed the true depth of his talent”.
And it is hard to argue with that as Nadal went on an incredible 81-match unbeaten run on clay and he has collected 10 French Open titles since his 2005 success in the Principality.
“I was happy to win the Davis Cup last year but this is unbelievable, it’s my first big title,” said Nadal.
However, not only was the King of Clay “born” during the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters, he also brought with him a breath of fresh air.
The ATP Tour suddenly had an 18-year-old from Majorca bouncing around the court in pirate pants and a sleeveless shirt with bulging biceps that several veteran players could only dream about.
The New York Times described him as “a flashy Majorcan with a ruffian’s swagger and an angelic grin”.
The Independent had the following to say after his win: “Rafael Nadal, whose pirate pants made him look as if he should be scampering up the rigging of a galleon, seems certain to plunder the treasure chests of tournaments for years to come.”
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The Guardian started their match report as follows: “In his yellow shirt, bandanna, and pirate-length white trousers, Rafael Nadal might be passed by on any Mediterranean beach as just another teenage kid having his kicks. But place him on a tennis court and this 18-year-old Spaniard from Mallorca is transformed into a world-class athlete.”
Nadal would don the Nike capri / pirate pants until 2008 and during that time he won five Grand Slam titles with four coming at Roland Garros.
Asked about his decision to change his gear nearly a decade ago, the Spaniard said: “I had been using those long shorts from 2005 until 2008. It was, you know, something different and I enjoyed it, but at that point I felt like it was the moment for a change. I felt that I was not a kid anymore.”
Many fans were sad with the change in style and even his long-time rival Roger Federer admitted during a 2010 ESPN interview that he missed it.
“I think it’s a pity he gave up his pirate pants and the sleeveless [shirts]. I thought our styles were colliding even more then. I kind of miss it,” the Swiss said.
However, a decade after he made the switch to the more traditional tennis attire, the sleeveless shirt made a comeback at the 2018 Australian Open.
Who knows, we might see the pirate pants again in future.
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