The next gen of tennis only carry Gucci at Wimbledon

Italian wunderkind Jannik Sinner kicks off the greatest grandslam with a designer bag, and a key change
jannik sinner wimbledon
Antoine Couvercelle

For a nation that finds heaven in the long tumble from a pub doorway, the British treat tennis as a very sober business. At the US Open, lots of commercials and “let's goooooooo”s (and subsequent complaints about the noise from Matteo Berrettini and Nick Kyrigos). At the French Open, a sportswear frenzy on an apocalyptically hot clay court. But for Wimbledon – the holiest and highest land on the tournament circuit – mandated hush, a zero tolerance to cursing and a strict emphasis on tennis whites. Sink as much Pimms as you like, but wear a red visor and you're out, you charlatan.

It is, undoubtedly, Wimbledon's status that emboldens it, and allows it to behave like a top narc. But there is so much heritage here (150 years of the stuff, to be precise). To do away with tradition would be to temper Wimbledon's history – and the sport's next gen aren't ready to torch the rulebook just yet.

Jannik Sinner walking onto court at tonight's match

Antoine Couvercelle

Men's singles contender Jannik Sinner is among them. Unlike rulebreakers of the recent past – Kyrigos was lambasted and allegedly fined $14,000 for red Air Jordan merch at last year's tournament – the Italian ace is more than happy to toe the party line, appearing at his first match in the approved tennis whites. “Wimbledon is the most historic and prestigious tournament in tennis. The strict dress code is rooted in tradition, respect for the sport's history and a desire to maintain formality,” he told GQ over email. “It also creates a very unique atmosphere which makes Wimbledon really special, in my opinion.”

But that doesn't mean newness is completely off the table. This evening, Sinner carried a one-of-a-kind Gucci duffle bag that's been custom designed for the tournament – a first for both the athlete, and the most famous brand to come out of Florence (well, next to Michelangelo). Plus, its got that customisable drip that elevates the usual off-the-peg stuff: Sinner's bag comes emblazoned with ‘JS’ initials.

Michele Campagni

It's an upgrade for all sorts of reasons. “My first tennis bag was from Head, but I also used it for skiing for the days when I was on the slopes,” Sinner tells GQ. But it's also an example of how luxury brands are eyeing the sports-specific space. Gucci isn't really regular tennis fare, and the marque is pretty much a newbie to the rigours of lab-tested sportswear. Sports luxe is all well good for a set piece at a Gucci show, but athletes require kit that actually works. It might not have the play style of Head, but Gucci's tennis bag looks pretty convincing thus far. Look elsewhere to Giorgio Armani, who has long sponsored the Queen's Cup at Hurlingham (a warm-up act to Wimbledon, if you will). The Italian brand creates tennis whites for both umpires and court staff, and, like Gucci, they work and look good.

Whether a fashion brand can beat out sportswear entirely is another matter. “It's a tricky question," says Sinner. “I think all brands I partner with share a common attention to detail and excellence.” Which is a fine and diplomatic answer. But despite Wimbledon's inflexibility and adherence to the old ways, it's likely that tennis's next gen will find wriggle room within the sport's red lines – and given the exposure and effectiveness of a Gucci tennis bag, maybe Head has some stiffer competition on the horizon.