With the tennis season underway and three of the four Grand Slam tournaments still to come, FN takes a walk through the sport’s history by looking at nine iconic brands and pairing them with their shoes that rule the court.
1. Nike NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor X
Andre Agassi’s game wasn’t the only thing that shocked — so, infamously, did his attire. And nothing would come between him and his flashy style (Agassi opted to sit out Wimbledon from 1988 to 1990 because of the all-white dress requirements). Professionally, the athlete dominated in the ’90s, starting with an ATP World Championships win in 1990, and would go on to earn multiple singles wins in all four Grand Slam tournaments. He also ushered in a new era of style in the ’90s, rocking bold hues and silhouettes that would become street-style staples — including the Nike Air Tech Challenge 2. Today, the Swoosh employs similar palettes on its court-ready styles, including the Air Zoom Vapor X HC, shown above.
2. Adidas SoleCourt Boost
The ’70s were great to tennis legend Stan Smith on the court, and his wins early in the decade helped shape the legacy of his iconic shoe. While wearing the Adidas style that bears his name today, Smith won his first Grand Slam title in 1971, defeating Jan Kodeš at the U.S. Open. A year later, also donning the Three Stripes, Smith earned his second Grand Slam title, besting Ilie Nastase in five sets. Although decades have passed since Smith last hit the court, Adidas is still a force in the sport today. The athletic label outfits its athletes in the SoleCourt Boost model.
3. Lacoste WildCard
Lacoste had decades of success on the court, but it was the ’90s where the brand reigned supreme. Ambassador Guy Forget earned the ATP Tour World Championships doubles title in 1990 wearing The Crocodile, and throughout the decade that followed, he earned several quarterfinal singles Grand Slam finishes. Its renowned LT 150 Court style was a winner in the era, debuting in 1995. Although it’s not on the court today, the model’s tech is still found in Lacoste’s modern lifestyle looks — such as the WildCard.
4. Fila Axilus 2 Energized
The 2000s were good to Fila’s tennis ambassadors, and Kim Clijsters had arguably one of the best runs of anyone wearing the brand. In August 2003, the athlete held the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles, and also earned a pair of doubles titles that year (French Open and Wimbledon). In the years to follow, Clijsters — who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017 — would earn singles Grand Slam victories, winning the U.S. Open three times (2005, 2009 and 2010) and the Australian Open in 2011. Today, the brand’s star athletes are wearing its most innovative shoe to date: the Axilus 2 Energized.
5. Wilson Propulse Rage All Court
With decades of experience in the equipment game, Babolat delivered its first on-court shoe in 2003 (with the help of tire company Michelin). And two years later, the brand signed a high-profile star to sport its footwear: Andy Roddick. The decorated athlete came on board boasting a solid résumé that included a No. 1 world ranking and a U.S. Open win, both in 2003. Today, the label is still in the footwear game, with its athletes lacing up styles like the Propulse Rage All Court.
6. Asics Court FF Novak
Although No. 1-ranked men’s star Novak Djokovic wears his signature style on the court today, the Court FF Novak, Asics has had some of the best in tennis lace up its looks for more than a decade. In 2006, then-ambassador Tatiana Golovin — who in prior years was a standout in Grand Slam singles tournaments — battled Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open while wearing performance sneakers from the brand.
7. K-Swiss Ultrashot Tennis Shoe
The climb up the singles ranks for Russian tennis standout Vera Zvonareva started in 2009 when she made it to the Australian Open semifinals. A year later, she earned her career-high ranking of No. 2 and made it to a pair of Grand Slam singles finals (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open). And she achieved these career milestones while wearing K-Swiss. Today, the brand, with plenty of clout in the sport, is outfitting its athletes in performance styles such as the K-Swiss Ultrashot Tennis Shoe.
8. Wilson Amplifeel 2.0
Wilson’s presence in tennis equipment is profound, with its W logo appearing prominently on the rackets of the sport’s best athletes. But it’s important to not undersell the brand’s accomplishments in on-court footwear. Now-retired Jarkko Nieminen, who had a solid singles and doubles career, worked his way through tough men’s doubles competition at the Australian Open in 2010 lacing up with Wilson. And after the tournament, he continued to wear the brand’s best, including its renowned Rush Pro franchise — a line sported by other standouts including Feliciano Lopez and Ugo Humbert. Although the label still has its athletes in the latest iteration of the shoe, it also has them wearing its techy Amplifeel 2.0.
9. New Balance 996v3
New Balance’s representation in tennis was slim until the past decade, when it stepped onto the court with authority. The brand’s biggest star, Canada’s Milos Raonic, had a breakout year in 2016 while wearing the brand’s shoes. Throughout the year, Raonic appeared in the finals at Wimbledon, made it to the semifinal round at the Australian Open and was ranked No. 3 in the world — his career high thus far. Today, the brand has its top athletes wearing the court-ready 996v3 style.
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