It was 90 degrees in New York City on Tuesday, yet many of the stars and models who showed up to Tommy Hilfiger's launch event in Bryant Park celebrating Rafael Nadal's global ambassadorship for the brand were fully dressed in sweat-inducing clothing. Hilfiger had just announced that the US Open-bound tennis pro is the new face of the brand's underwear, TH Bold fragrance ($62/3.4 fl. oz., macys.com), and Tommy Hilfiger Tailored suits collection. (If you haven't seen Nadal's underwear campaign yet, shame on you, but scroll down.) However, for such a delectable announcement, model Noah Mills wore a blazer, Chanel Iman and Hannah Davis had on jackets, and Rafael Nadal himself showed up in a suit.
A crowd had gathered at the east end of the park thanks to a man on a megaphone shouting at everyone in the vicinity to come and join the fun at the custom-built tennis court built in the shape and colors of the Tommy Hilfiger logo. Across from them, VIPs (including Dee Hilfiger) baked in the hot sun sitting in mini stands, as did Nat Wolff, who brought his tennis-megafan dad along as a plus one. Soon, Tommy Hilfiger and Nadal took center court to welcome everyone to the exhibition match. "I'm honored to be part of this campaign," said Nadal. "This is a very special moment."
It sure was. Soon, host Jane Lynch—clad in a Sue Sylvester-worthy Hilfiger track suit—told the crowd: "This isn't your typical tennis match. We gave it a sexy twist. We're playing strip tennis! It's just like tennis, the only difference is that when you score a point, a member of the opposing team has to remove an article of clothing." Listen to her speech here:
Aha! That's why everyone suffered with cable-knit sweaters in the hot heat. Soon, the matches started and the clothes flew off. First, two partner model teams squared off, including Constance Jablonski, Noah Mills, Hannah Davis, and Akin Akman. "Shirtless tennis is the best way tennis should be played," Davis told us. But, it got better, and much more tantalizing. The winner of that match went on to play Nadal himself.
Nadal took the court against novice Chanel Iman and super athletic Akman, a model who spotlights as a sold-out SoulCycle instructor with a 10-pack of abs that, as Lynch joked, "can turn a girl straight." After a few volleys, Akman lost most everything and Iman was down to her sports bra. "I've never had to strip for work before!" she had told us earlier.
But soon, Rafa lost a point. Off came the belt. Then another point. Then the tie. Another point. Then the watch. Another point. THEN THE SHIRT. "This is such reverse sexism," Lynch said with a smile. At this moment, the ladies were squealing, including Lake Bell, who joined Lynch to comment on the game. "Nadal's a looker, for sure," Bell told us before the match started. "There's something super sexy about being good at tennis. Maybe it's all the grunting."
It was all for show, of course. There was no way Nadal would miss that many balls hit his way, especially for a guy who, according to tennis.com, averages 114 mph serves. But it was a good show. Because we can all watch him play tennis on TV and at the US Open next week. But to celebrate an underwear campaign, there had to be a peek of underwear involved. And we waited for it. As the stands and crowd dispersed, Nadal stripped one last time, removing his jacket, showing off the abs he flaunts in the underwear campaign, and offering a peek at his Tommy Hilfiger underwear. That's something we'd consider a win.