The Times, London
By Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
THE only dull thing about Mikhail Youzhny in the moment that changed his life on Sunday was his attire. A grey shirt without a hint of decoration was hardly fit for the young prince of the Davis Cup final.
In the year that Paris went crazy over Serena Williams wearing the colours of the Cameroon football team in the French Open, Youzhny and Paul-Henri Mathieu, his equally soberly dressed opponent, might have been playing in a local park rather than resolving the destiny of the trophy, which went to Russia for the first time after their 3-2 win over France.
The Davis Cup is different. It plays on the powers of national identity and, as such, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the guardian of the sport, is keen to maximise its impact. What could be more appropriate, and more eye-catching, than teams turning out in their national colours with the players’ names on the back of the shirts? However, though the ITF wants it, those players canvassed want it and the public deserves it (and would buy the shirts in their thousands), the manufacturers are lining up against the idea. Nike, understood to be against lettering on the backs of its shirts that could detract from the aesthetics of its logo, is leading a potentially significant revolt, claiming that the ITF will place players in breach of contract by forcing them to wear uniforms with their names on.
The ITF is dumbfounded. “We have been mandated by our AGM to go forward with this proposition,” Juan Margets, the chairman of the Davis Cup committee, said. “We will not expect players to be playing in these shirts from the first round next year, but if they are not by the quarterfinals, then we have a range of fines we can implement.”
If the players decide that they want to appear in their national colours, they have time to inform their agents and manufacturers of such intent and have their contracts redrawn. The decision is up to them.