NEW YORK – Maria Sharapova loves New York, especially its style and skyline. When Sharapova defends her U.S. Open title next week, she'll be wearing tennis dresses decorated with graphic interpretations of the cityscape on the chest.
The designs, created in collaboration with Nike senior designer Colleen Sandieson, were unveiled Wednesday evening on a rooftop at Rockefeller Center.
Like last year, Sharapova will have one outfit dedicated for day play and another for night matches.
"It's always important to feel comfortable in what you're wearing when you're playing, but in tennis, you can do so many things with your wardrobe," Sharapova said wearing the flame-red dress in a flared shift silhouette that she'll wear at night.
The color is in honor of the Big Apple. "I've worn a red top before but never a red dress, but there is no better place to do it than New York," she told the Associated Press.
The dress is a sleek garment made of a breathable wicking jersey and constructed with a no-sew technique with seams bonded with heat and silicone instead of thread.
There are more than 600 Swarovski crystals incorporated into the design, adding a little flash to the outfit, but Sharapova said it's simple and classy, which suits her taste. "I don't like things with too much pattern ... things that are tacky."
There also are three crystal buttons down the back, creating a keyhole effect.
For the daytime, the look is similar but in black and white — and without the crystals. It has a scoop-back design that facilitates movement, according to Sandieson.
Performance is always the priority, Sandieson said, but she and Sharapova strive for designs that marry function with fashion.
"She has a fantastic game and I have a lot of respect for that but she has a great eye for detail," Sandieson said. "She's got a style that's very natural to her, and she also knows what she likes and doesn't like."
Sharapova, 20, has become a player in the fashion world and has sponsorship deals with Parlux Fragrances, handbag company Samantha Thavasa and watchmaker Tag Heuer in addition to Nike. She follows Venus and Serena Williams and Anna Kournikova as tennis players who are also seen as style icons.
"She wears clothes that a lot of other women would like to own and look good in," said Susan Kaufman, editor of People StyleWatch.
Kaufman also notes that today's tennis stars are photographed when they're off the court, too, giving more of a glimpse of their personal style.
Sharapova noted that the U.S. Open, which runs Aug. 27-Sept. 8, coincides with New York Fashion Week and she tries to make it to at least one show. For the past two years, it's been Marc Jacobs but she also hopes to make it to Michael Kors, Peter Som and Vera Wang this year.
Once her tennis career is over, she said, fashion is something she'd like to further explore.