Five of the Best: Signature Tennis Sneakers
Crowds have descended on the All England Club for Wimbledon 2019, and the tournament is in full swing. Djokovic is favourite to take out the men's title and Serena Williams the women's.
In the spirit of the tournament, we thought we'd take a look at some of the best signature tennis shoes to hit the court.
Andre Agassi’s Nike Air Tech Trainer 2 (1990)
In 1990, Andre Agassi was tennis’s bad boy. He refused to abide by the game's conservative conventions and laughed in the face of its strict dress codes. He even refused to play at Wimbledon in protest of its rigorous all-white uniform stipulations. No surprises then that his most famous signature shoe was a flashy one. The Tinker Hatfield-designed Air Tech Challenge 2 and it’s beloved ‘Hot Lava’ colourway threw aside the gentlemanly style of other tennis shoes and embraced Agassi’s bombastic style.
John McEnroe’s Air Trainer 1 (1987)
OK so this isn’t technically a signature, but it’s one of the most important shoes to hit the court, so we’re going with it.
Until the late 80s, performance shoes were sport-specific. Running shoes were for running, basketball shoes were for basketball and tennis shoes were strictly for the court. That is, until Tinker Hatfield designed a shoe that could do everything: the Air Trainer 1. The shoe signalled the dawn of 'cross-training'. John McEnroe debuted the Air Trainer 1 on court in 1987, noting that the mid-top gave him the jump and lateral support that he needed. The Swoosh scored an ace with the strapped trainer; its original ‘Chlorophyll’ colourway is still lauded as one Nike’s greatest ever.
Stan Smith’s Stan Smiths (1971)
The Stan Smith has a long and varied history. At a time when tennis players wore plimsolls – that is, canvas shoes with a rubber sole – adidas made the first leather court shoe. Originally called the Haillet, the simple white shoe was signed over to Stan Smith in 1971. The green-heeled trainer is unique on this list, having fully transcended its OG purpose and become a staple for everyone from Kanye West to the kid next door. Rarely being out of fashion since its release, it is still the Three Stripes’ bestselling shoe of all time. Game, set and match!
Roger Federer’s NikeCourt Vapor Line
Roger Federer’s signature NikeCourt Vapors don’t just make this list for their on-court performance – though considering Fed’s 20 grand slam wins, that can’t be denied – but also for the way they play with years of Nike heritage. The Vapor 9.5 AJ3 was a meeting of the GOATs, combining two of the world’s greatest athletes’ own shoes. It looked the part too, appropriately dressed in the elephant print made famous by the Jordan 3. Since then we’ve also seen homages to the Air Max 95s ‘Neon’ and ‘Greedy’ and atmos’ ‘Elephant’ Air Max 1.
Serena William’s NikeCourt Flare (2015)
We can’t have a list of the best signature tennis shoes without talking about the best player to ever hit the court. Serena Williams has won 23 grand slam singles titles, 14 doubles titles and 4 Olympic gold medals. The NikeCourt Flare was designed to feel like an extension of the body, with its neoprene ankle collar providing the wearer more body awareness. Like Fed’s Vapors, Serena’s Flares often use classic Nike designs as inspiration; we’ve seen them done in both ‘Bred’ and ‘Olympic’ colourways.
BONUS: Off-White x NikeCourt Flare 2 'Queen' (2018)
While we're on the subject, it would be remiss of us not to mention Serena's link-up with Virgil. The Off-White x Nike 'Queen' collection featured a slew of silhouettes for release, but the Court Flare 2 was kept exclusively for Serena. The Abloh-designed kit didn't stop there - during the 2018 US Open Serena rocked the Court Flares with a full Off-White x Nike 'fit.