Fashion icon Rafa revels in added exposure

MELBOURNE Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:45am EST

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates victory over Marin Cilic of Croatia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates victory over Marin Cilic of Croatia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Wimborne

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal, who has followed David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo as the new face of Armani underwear and jeans, said on Monday he loved being a sex symbol.

The world's top tennis player, known for his bulging biceps and chiseled torso, has attracted camera flashes and wolf-whistles at the Australian Open where he regularly peels off his sweat-drenched shirts during changeovers.

"No, I feel fantastic," Nadal smiled when asked if girls screaming their undying love for him puts him off his game, before asking a female journalist if she thought he was sexy.

The Spaniard was in a playful mood after pummeling Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-2 6-4 6-3 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Nadal blushed when asked about the moody black-and-white promotional photos which show him posing in his briefs sweeping back his hair and flexing his muscles.

"It was a good experience," Nadal, who recently signed a lucrative deal with Emporio Armani Underwear and Armani jeans, said, squirming in his chair.

"It's always nice to know different worlds," he added, warming to the subject. "The fashion world is something that I didn't know before. It was a good photo session, a long one."

Approaching Nadal after Beckham and Ronaldo was a bold move from Armani as Nadal is notorious for picking at his underwear in between points.

"Hopefully the results are satisfactory," Nadal said. "I worked very hard -- seriously. It was nice. A different experience and I enjoyed."

Asked by a female reporter if he thought his pictures were sexy, Nadal teased: "I'm not the right person to say. I always watch myself so-so. But what do you think? Do you like it?"

Given an affirmative answer, Nadal flirted: "I happy if you like it!"

(Editing by Martyn Herman)

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