Ferreira short-changed in fashion stakes

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The Independent Online

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis won their second Australian Open doubles final yesterday but they were not, for once, the centre of attention. While the attire of female players is usually the subject of fevered interest at Grand Slams, men's shorts have hijacked the limelight at this tournament.

The shorts have come in all conceivable sizes and colours, some of them chosen more prudently than others. "Come on, Ronald McDonald," yelled one spectator as Austria's Stefan Koubek – resplendent in canary yellow shorts, red top and black shoes – took on Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals earlier this week.

Koubek, not normally known for his flamboyance, was the only man game enough to select the shorts when Nike unveiled its 2002 collection. He went down in straight sets to a soberly-garbed Novak. Chile's Marcelo Rios, who took Tommy Haas of Germany to five sets the following day, succumbed in unusual white shorts featuring a shiny grey stripe beneath the waistline.

There were concerns for Wayne Ferreira's health as soon as he showed up for his quarter-final in a pair of tiny grey shorts apparently designed for a 10-year-old boy. When the South African retired with a torn stomach muscle just seven games into his match against Marat Safin, no one in Rod Laver Arena was surprised.

Andre Agassi withdrew injured before the first day of play, depriving himself of the opportunity to set a new trend. Agassi, who pioneered baggy shorts as part of the pirate look that he favoured in his bandana-sporting younger days, arrived at the Australian Open two years ago in a minuscule pair that drew gasps of horror. He showed no obvious discomfort, however, and went on to claim the title. His great rival, Pete Sampras, who survived until the fourth round this year, remains the standard-bearer for baggy white shorts. Mark Philippoussis, however, pushed the boat out too far. "Two duvet covers loosely knitted together" was the verdict on the billowing shorts that he wore for his defeat by Greg Rusedski.

Rusedski's fellow countryman, Tim Henman, has been one of the more conservative dressers, continuing to look like a typical British schoolboy. There was an embarrassed hush when Henman turned up for his quarter-final against Jonas Bjorkman to find himself wearing the same outfit – white shorts and blue and white top – as his Swedish opponent. Clearly, the two had failed to check with each other before they got dressed that morning.

Tomorrow Safin takes on another Swede, Thomas Johansson, in the final. If he wins, it will be his second victory at Melbourne Park. The Russian's perfectly proportioned white shorts are generally considered the best on the circuit.

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