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Rafael Nadal's tennis fashion wars

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nadal_rafael.jpgBattles on the court at the U.S. Open, which started today, always provide athletic entertainment. But off the court, the fashion wars are heating up.

Nike is remaking Rafael Nadal, long known for packing his muscular frame into sleeveless shirts and capris, while Andy Roddick and James Blake are tripping over one another for the title of Best Dressed Metrosexual.

Now, as Mr. Nadal sets his sights on the U.S. Open, the hunky rebel known for his muscle shirts, capri-length pants and bandanna will morph into more of a traditionalist, starting with his on-court wardrobe. The shift appears part of a larger strategy by Mr. Nadal's tight-knit management team to transform the sublime baseliner from a teenage heartthrob into a grown-up star.

Though in his defeat of Bjorn Phau today, Nadal wore a sleeveless blue Nike shirt. The only difference from his usual garb? It seemed tighter than usual and left little to the imagination, just like his recent topless spread in the New York Times Magazine. Good luck with that, Nike.

As for Roddick and Blake, they seem to be stuck in a bromance focused more on who looks better off the court.

"Have you seen what Blake is wearing?" Roddick says to a friend as he struts through the halls of USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Saturday afternoon wearing an "I love AZ" hat, khaki shorts and white tee. "He is wearing man Capris. They look like parachutes. I can't believe it." –Matt Hennie

Matt Hennie blogs on Atlanta’s sports scene at Gaytlsports.com.