Whether on the court or in a promo spot, Andre Agassi has been one of the most familiar faces in tennis for well over two decades now. Though his contract with Nike provided us with some of the most memorable and extravagant sneakers of the '90s, Agassi departed with Nike for adidas in 1995. From the bold and daring designs of the Nike Air Tech Challenge, to the more current adidas Feather, the one thing that rings true for all of these kicks is that they are classics with on-court performance benefits. Now that Agassi is back to the Swoosh, let's take a look back at Andre Agassi's 10 Most Influential Nike Tennis Sneakers.
Riley Jones is a journalism student from Charlottesville, VA. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things '90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.
CONTINUE TO STORY
No. 10 - Nike Air Flair
Event: 1994 US Open
As the '90s moved on, Andre’s shoes became considerably more toned down. The aggressive, rugged designs were still in tact, but gone were the fluorescent, clashing colors. For the ’94 US Open, Andre wore the Nike Air Flair in a simple black/white makeup. Although the Air Flair was a considerable contrast from his previous sneakers, they were very popular and remain a casual wear favorite today.
No. 9 - Nike Zoom Challenge
Event: Nike Print Ad
In 1996, Zoom Air was all the rage for Nike. Popular in basketball and running sneakers as well, the technology is still used often by Nike nowadays. Andre’s version shared many style cues with other sneakers of the time, such as the Zoom Flight ’96 (worn by NBA stars such as Penny Hardaway and Jason Kidd). The over-the-top print ads were back, hyping Andre’s new kicks as well as the new technology.
No. 8 - Nike Zoom Assailant
Event: Nike Print Ad
Nike used Andre’s inspiring comeback to do what they’ve always done best: sell shoes. The Assailant took design cues from some of the hottest basketball shoes on the market: the 3M mesh of the Air Jordan 13, and the wavy, textured upper similar to Rodman’s Air Shake Ndestrukt signature. These elements, combined with Andre’s successful comeback, made for another late 90’s classic. This time around, Nike took a less-is-more approach, letting images of Andre sell the product, with only the fine print detailing the sneaker itself. Evidently, Agassi was more recognizable than ever.
No. 7 - Nike Air Challenge LWP
Event: Australian Open
This Light Weight Performance edition of the Nike Air Challenge did well on the basketball and tennis court, rocked by Agassi in a the duel against Sampras for the number one ATP spot. Agassi won the no. 1 ranking that year, as well as the Australian Open in the above colorway, rocking other colorways later that season. A year of change for the athlete, he shaved is famous head of hair and dropped Nike for adidas in 1995.
No. 6 - Nike Air Trainer 1
Event: US Open 1988
Agassi’s first sneaker under his freshly inked deal with Nike wasn’t actually his sneaker at all. Initially made famous by fellow tennis sensation John McEnroe, the Nike Air Trainer 1 was as revolutionary as the players themselves. In its original “chlorophyll” colorway, Agassi helped to make one of Tinker Hatfield’s first experiments a major success. Although there are better performance options available today, the Air Trainer 1 was in a class of its own upon its release.
No. 5 - Nike Zoom Pounce
Event: 1998 Citi Open
Eventually, Agassi would run into an issue that plagues a majority of athletes: career-threatening injuries. After a lengthy stint of rehabilitation, Andre completed a successful comeback. His preference for Nike’s newest tech continued, this time wearing the Nike Zoom Pounce. These aren’t exactly easy to come by these days, and like all vintage kicks, run the risk of falling apart with wear.
No. 4 - Nike Air Tech Challenge IV
Event: 1991 US Open
Although he didn’t reach the Finals of the ’91 US Open, Agassi definitely made his mark. Equipped with the ATC 3/4s, one thing was for sure: Nike and Andre had another classic on their hands. Original pairs are hard to come by, and shouldn’t be worn for any kind of performance use. In 2009, Nike offered a Hybrid version which was similar, but couldn’t quite match the demand of the OG.
No. 3 - Nike Air Challenge Huarache
Event: 1992 US Open
As Nike technology evolved, so did Andre’s sneaker line. The popular Huarache technology, a form-fitting inner sleeve made of neoprene, was incorporated into Agassi’s sneaker. The resulting design is part Air Tech Challenge and part Air Jordan 7. Andre was highly successful wearing the Challenge Huarache, defeating Goran Ivanišević at Wimbledon. The Challenge Huarache has yet to be re-released.
No. 2 - Nike Air Tech Challenge 3
Event: 1990 US Open
The Air Tech Challenge was a huge success for Nike, due in large part to Agassi’s budding success on the tennis court. After impressive showings in 1988 and 1989, Agassi finally had his own signature Nike. He was defeated in the US Open Final by rival Pete Sampras, although you’d never know judging by the way tennis and sneaker fans flock to this classic model. Retro releases have been popular, however aren’t recommended for high-performance play.
No. 1 - Nike Air Tech Challenge 2
Event: 1990 French Open
With Andre’s continued success came the need for a follow up to his first signature sneaker, the Air Tech Challenge (not pictured). Nike turned up the loud and laced him in the ATC 2, most famous in its Hot Lava colorway. Drawing several style cues from other sneakers designed around the same time, such as the Air Jordan 4, the tooling of the Air Tech Challenge 2 is still in use today. Earlier this year, Nike and Kanye West’s highly successful collaboration, the Air Yeezy 2, borrowed its midsole directly from the ATC 2. The ATC2 has been re-released in recent years, although it is no longer an optimal choice for performance on the court.