Game, set, disaster
By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

NEW YORK -- Jennifer Capriati made history last week.

Not the good kind.

For her first-round US Open match against Cristina Torrens Valero, Capriati donned a formfitting blue dress, replete with white stars.

While the American flag motif was commendably patriotic, the outfit itself was rather unflattering -- a bit too tight, a tad too revealing, creating the overall effect of an overstuffed kielbasa, frozen to a deep azure.

"I heard some pros and cons about it," Capriati later said. "I heard the troops really liked it."

Good for them. For the rest of us, well, Capriati is hardly the first tennis star to transform fashion-forward into fashion forewarned. To the contrary, the sport is a veritable walk-in closet of sartorial blunders, good intentions gone hopelessly awry.

With that in mind, Page 2 presents a look back at some of the most, er, unforgettable garb in tennis history:

Jennifer Capriati Martina Hingis

When: 2003 U.S. Open.

The look: Stars n' Stripes, sans stripes.

Inspired by: Betsy Ross.

Resembles: Rebecca Romijn-argh!-Stamos, done-up in body paint for those "X-Men" movies. OK, maybe not.

Sartorial statement: Here stands a proud daughter of the American Revolution -- a revolution that produced crass music videos, ubiquitous fast food, gas-guzzling SUVs and everything else that makes the U-S-of-A insanely great, especially Maverick and Goose pouring upside-down Pepsis and giving Ivan the bird in "Top Gun."

Possible complications: Militant Islamic fundamentalists may try to burn your Great Satan getup during rallies. Ditto for members of the ACLU.

When: 2001, various tournaments.

The look: A skintight shirt with varying sleeves -- one long, one short.

Inspired by: Haute couture; homeless people; Luke Skywalker after Vader kaiboshed his hand; the ill-fated McDLT hamburger, which kept the hot side hot and the cool side cool.

Resembles: Something Danny Wuerffel might wear, the better to complement his -- snicker -- throwing glove.

Sartorial statement: A player so good, she can win with one arm. That, or she's hiding some sort of rare and hideous skin disorder.

Possible complications: And you thought bikinis produced uneven tan lines.

Serena Williams Serena Williams

When: 2002 French Open.

The look: Sleeveless green shirt, red shorts and yellow knee-high socks.

Inspired by: The Cameroon soccer team (no, really).

Resembles: Something Britney Spears might wear if filming a video in Africa. Assuming, of course, she wears anything at all.

Sartorial statement: The Indomitable Lions' run to the 1990 World Cup quarterfinals really inspired me. Even though I was nine at the time.

Possible complications: MLS makes you a top draft pick, then trades your rights to Tottenham Hotspur; chair umpire asks you to produce your homework. In Swahili.

When: 2002 U.S. Open.

The look: A skintight black catsuit, replete with very short shorts.

Inspired by: Batman, Catwoman, the Tick.

Resembles: Jennifer Garner in "Daredevil." Except for the shorts. Sigh.

Sartorial statement: Mighty. Mighty. And letting it all hang out.

Possible complications: Commissioner Gordon will call on you to take on -- and take out -- that pesky Joker.

Andre Agassi Venus Williams

When: Early 1990s, various tournaments.

The look: Black denim shorts over neon-pink spandex undies, topped by a white, black and pink shirt with matching headband.

Inspired by: Axl Rose, Brett Michaels.

Resembles: The manly men of Whitesnake, sans the eyeliner; a wayward bike messenger, delivering urgent legal documents to Stadium Court.

Sartorial statement: Here I am -- DUH-DUH-DUH -- rock you like a hurricane!

Possible complications: Thanks to the Internet, pictures are just a few clicks away. For the rest of your life.

When: 2001 Australian Open.

The look: A black-and-blue, slashed-front top.

Inspired by: An unlocked bank vault; Terrell Owens, 10 yards behind the last defender; Niagra Falls, tumbling forth in all its natural splendor.

Resembles: Bondage gear ... uhh, so we've heard.

Sartorial statement: Beyond winning Grand Slams, I'm very interested in fashion design -- hey, are you even listening here?

Possible complications: Spillage, baby. Spillage.

Ashley Harkleroad Rick Leach and Ellis Ferreira

When: 2001 U.S. Open.

The look: A skintight, midriff-baring tankini, with short skirt slit to mid-hip.

Inspired by: Lecherous Nike reps, who helped the then-16-year-old Harkleroad pick it out. Why didn't the FBI look into this?

Resembles: Ten pounds of grain in a five-pound sack. Warren Sapp in Gary Coleman's pajamas. Shamu in Paul Pierce's headband. You get the idea.

Sartorial statement: Give me a sign. Hit me, baby, one more time. (Alternately, don't stand so close to me).

Possible complications: You end up starring in a made-for-television adaptation of a Nabokov novel; worse still, you end up in "Poison Ivy 4."

When: 2000 Australian Open.

The look: Flowery, red and white Bermuda shorts.

Inspired by: Surfers; kids with swimming pools; Elvis, the Hawaii years.

Resembles: College basketball coaches "dressing down" at the Maui Classic, year after goofy year. How ridiculous is that?

Sartorial statement: Doubles is even less challenging than it appears.

Possible complications: You look like a really big dork. Which, come to think if it, isn't so complicated.

Anne White Bjorn Borg

When: 1985 Wimbledon.

The look: A skintight white bodystocking.

Inspired by: Athletic socks; ballerinas; Tinkerbell.

Resembles: A homemade Power Ranger Halloween costume, without the helmet.

Sartorial statement: Lose a bet? You might have to follow through.

Possible complications: All-England club officials will ban your outfit because -- get this -- the neckline is too low (and, in fact, that's exactly what happened).

When: 1970s, various tournaments.

The look: Short shorts, sweater vests, big pimpin' headbands. All the accessories of the International Tennis Playboy, circa 1979.

Inspired by: Tournaments on the Riviera; tax havens in Monaco; the decade that gave us disco.

Resembles: Luke Wilson in "The Royal Tenenbaums."

Sartorial statement: In the realm of babe-banditry, I'm Sir Francis Drake. Yarghh, matey!

Possible complications: Every other decade, the look becomes cool again.

Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at

ALSO SEE:'s 2003 US Open coverage

Page 2: Bad hair day, revisited

Hruby: In search of a Kourni-clone

Pressman: Embracing Anna

Anna's day in pictures

Email story
Most sent
Print story

espn Page 2 index