Wesley Koolhof is one win away from lifting the biggest trophy of his career at the US Open. But the Dutchman has been getting attention for more than just his impressive play alongside Nikola Mektic at Flushing Meadows.
Koolhof’s colourful neon shirt has a woman’s face plastered across the front with giant green and orange lips. It has has certainly been noticed at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and by fans watching at home.
“You either like it or you hate it, I think. It’s designed by Bidi Badu, my sponsor, a German brand. I started with them four years ago. It’s pretty colourful I would say, with some big lips on it,” Koolhof said. “The slogan is ‘Heat Up The Night’, inspired by the night sessions here at Arthur Ashe Stadium with the bright lights and stuff. That was the thought behind it. It’s been working out pretty good, I have to say. I’m happy to wear it again on Thursday.”
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/USTA
The five-time ATP Tour doubles titlist believes this is the “most crazy” shirt he’s worn with the company. He’s sported some neon yellow and bright pink in the past, but had an interesting reaction when he saw what this shirt looks like.
“My honest reaction? ‘What the heck is this?’” Koolhof said, cracking a laugh. “It’s black, it can be very hot here, so I wasn’t a big fan of black clothes, especially when it’s that warm here. But the colours are bright, it’s actually nice. It’s a graffiti kind of thing. I’m getting used to it, which is good. If we win the title here, then I’ll think it’s the best shirt ever made.”
Many people have made comments to the 31-year-old about his apparel at this US Open, including his girlfriend.
“She didn’t like it because it has lips on the shirt, so she hated it,” Koolhof said, again cracking a laugh. “The rest think it’s nice and bright. Even my partner said it’s the best shirt he’s ever seen. I’m not sure if he was being cynical or meant it, but let’s keep that in the middle. The reception has been pretty good overall.”
This is not the only interesting shirt that’s been spotted in New York this year. Nike put out a new take on the daring 1990 Andre Agassi collection that captured plenty of attention three decades ago.
“Bright colours are always nice. Nike has the same at the moment. Bright always works, especially for those night sessions here,” Koolhof said. “Agassi was my idol. I always watched his matches. I liked his game style, I liked his returns, so he was the one I watched a lot when I was growing up.”
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While fashion is exciting, Koolhof is even more thrilled with his run in Flushing Meadows. After he partnered Mektic to the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open, the eighth seeds have only lost one set en route to the US Open final. They defeated reigning Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the semi-finals.
“This is what you’re working hard for in the off-season period [during the pandemic] in those first two months of basically doing nothing because everything was locked. Then you were starting to work out and play again,” Koolhof said. “I’m happy that the hard work paid off and that we are immediately basically at a good level… It’s the perfect start of the comeback.”
Koolhof had only previously made one Grand Slam quarter-final, which came at Wimbledon last year with Marcus Daniell. In 2019, he fell short in three ATP Masters 1000 finals.
While the Dutchman has received plenty of attention for his shirt, he is solely focussed on lifting the trophy when he joins Mektic against Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares on Thursday.
“I always try to look good of course with what I wear, but that’s up to the designer and to the sponsor. Of course I would rather win a Slam without this shirt than lose in the first round,” Koolhof said. “We’re very happy that we’ve made the final and have been playing very well together throughout these three weeks. We’ve just got to finish strong here.
“[It would mean] a lot, of course. Everyone is always dreaming about becoming a Grand Slam champion… It’s a bit different than any other Slam. I’m just happy that we’re back competing, we’re doing great and we’re here, so we might as well win it.”