Borna and Nole – in Vogue

Borna Ćorić at the ATP World Finals in 2014. Photograph by Michael Frey.

Borna Ćorić at the ATP World Finals in 2014. Photograph by Michael Frey.

Well, once again the gazillion-page (actually only 832-page) September Vogue is out, and, once again, the big issue for me is not the cover or the fashion but whom editrix Anna Wintour has anointed among male tennis players for the ritual dressing (and undressing).

This year, tennis-crazed Anna, the sly minx, is offering a kind of two-for-one and her own version of doubles. In the “People Are Talking About” section, rising star and teen dream Borna “Identity”  Ćorić looks like he’s headed off to Harvard, standing at the net in a gray and white Canali sweater with gray J. Crew sweats. Coach Brad Gilbert has given the 18-year-old Croat the nickname but the question is, “Whose identity?”

“He reminds me of a mini Djoker,” Gilbert says of the hyper-flexible Borna.

As if to underscore that point, there’s Novak Djokovic himself in the “Forces of Fashion” section, wearing white shorts by Uniqlo – the socially minded brand he reps – and doing the kind of stretch with his right leg resting up a tree that is usually done by ballet dancers. (Nole, who already counts yoga as part of his rigorous training, recently took up the art form.)

All kidding aside for a moment, kudos to Nole and wife Jelena for the way they’ve taken the Novak Djokovic Foundation – with a little help from Anna – to the next plane. The foundation, which focuses on early childhood education in countries like the couple’s native Serbia, opened its latest School of Life this summer in Vladicin Han, Serbia and is about to raise its profile with UNICEF. (Nole has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2011.) Few things are more important than giving children the start they need to succeed in life not just as workers but as complete human beings – the kind of start Nole was fortunate to have, despite family struggles, with coach Jelena Gencic, who saw beyond the boy to the whole child.

Now back to the kidding: Of course, Nole is topless in the pix. Anna, who featured him in a Speedo in the May 2011 Vogue, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wonder what her true tennis love, Roger Federer, thinks of these occasional dalliances with one of his great rivals? Fed has already said we shouldn’t call Borna “Baby Nole.” Perhaps he’s tired of hearing Grigor Dmitrov – Serena- and now Sharapova-ex and another Vogue alum – referred to as “Baby Fed.” Or maybe the thought of another Nole to contend with is more than Feddy can bear.

Might there be a touch of jealousy? As far as Anna’s concerned, Feddy has nothing to worry about. If you saw the way she looked at him at the Moët & Chandon 270th anniversary party – well, actually you can see it in my post on teNeues’ new book “The Stylish Life: Tennis” – then you know Fed’s got nothing to worry about. He’ll always be ranked No. 1 with Anna.

But Fed has a point. Comparisons are facile. We are each entitled to our individuality. Borna has shown himself to be like Nole in his studious commitment to the game. In that sense, the poised-beyond-his-years Borna is not just Baby Nole , he is the anti-Kyrgios – as in Nick, the 20-year-old Aussie star who seems to be more interested in aping the wildness of countryman and pal Bernard Tomic.

Fed has said that Nole, Rafa (Nadal) and Andy (Murray) – the boys who became his real rivals – were the last of the teen sensations. Tennis has become a power game, and power belongs to adults.

Borna and Nick are among the exceptions. But only one may be on the path to greatness.