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Is This Nadal's "Wardrobe Malfunction?"

Rafael Nadal
AP
Rafael Nadal

It is being called, by some, the most controversial clothing change in all of sports.

The world's No. 1 men's tennis player, Rafael Nadal — known for his capri shorts and sleeveless muscle T's — showed up at the Australian Open wearing shorts that are showing his full knee and his top and a regular polo with sleeves.

An Australian Age columnist could have put it best by describing the "anger, disbelief, hurt among the Vamos brigade," referring to Nadal's loyal fans from Spain.

After one aborted attempt by Nike at last year's U.S. Open, when it seemed like people in the Nadal camp thought the change was coming a bit too soon, the reality of the business world is that this change had to come.

Why?

Well, put yourself in Nike's shoes.

You have the No. 1 tennis player in the world who is an incredible player, but he wears these cutoff shirts and extra long pants that almost no tennis player is going to wear. Not many people would wear that for fashion purposes, either.

So Nike officials don't have any choice if they are going to make the money they pay Nadal work for them.

"This is a very good move for both Nike and Nadal," said Erwin Ong, author of the tennis fashion blog Tennis Served Fresh. "It's time for Nadal to shift his image anyway from the really loud, young strong guy to a more mature position. And for Nike, it's not like they're giving up the sleeveless look forever. They'll still have Monfils, Del Potro and Moya to sport that."

When asked about the stark change, Nadal replied, "'Important thing in the end is not the clothes; is the ball and racquet and play well."

Nope, that's not the most important thing, Rafael.

The most important thing is that Nike has confidence in selling your new shirts for $55 and up.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com