As the 2013 US Open is in full swing, let's take a look back at some of the notable past winners of the Grand Slam tournament, as well as the memorable sneakers worn on one of the game's biggest stages.
Today, the US Open is known as the most prestigious hard court Grand Slam tournament, but that hasn't always been the case. When the tournament first started in 1881, it was played on grass courts in Rhode Island, and featured a much different format than the current tournament. As the event moved to Queens, NY, and grass evolved to hard court, the tournament took on a new form, and the sneakers used changed accordingly to meet the demands of hard-court play.
While the pre-Open era was dominated by canvas sneakers that lacked both personality and performance capabilities, starting in 1968, the game began to evolve, as professional tennis players were finally allowed to compete in Grand Slams. To help players optimize their performance on the tennis court--and to capitalize on the growing popularity of the sport--footwear brands began rolling out shoes that were aesthetically appealing, but (more importantly) could hold up in terms of performance on the hard stuff.
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Ilie Nastase x adidas Nastase
Ilie Nastase may not be a household name, but 100 ATP titles in both singles and doubles tournaments, along with two singles Grand Slam titles under his belt were enough to convince adidas to give the Romanian international his very own signature shoe in the early '70s. Nastase was known for his great touch and quickness on the court. His shoes, well they were quite simple in design, but featured plenty of cushioning and durability to hold up to the rigors of the game.
Boris Becker x Diadora Becker Signature
The forefront of tennis may have been dominated by the likes of adidas and Nike, but in the late '80s, German international Boris Becker was one of many tennis stars (including Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas) who helped put the brand on the map on the hard court. In 1989, Becker won his one and only US Open title, defeating Ivan Lendl in a pair of Diadora Becker Signature's. The shoes featured an ultra-soft kangaroo leather upper that was comfortable, durable, and fit like a glove.
Juan Martin del Potro x Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II
Why is Juan Martin del Potro's lone grand slam title at the US Open so significant? Because he's the only player not named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray to win the tournament in the last 10 years. In 2009, del Potro prevented Federer from winning his sixth consecutive US Open title, as he upset the then No. 1 ranked player in the world in a tough five-setter. For the biggest match of his career, del Potro laced up in the Nike Air Max Breathe Cage II—a do-it-all shoe that was loaded with Air units in the heel for cushioning, and an XDR outsole for traction and durability.
Patrick Rafter x Reebok Dura Court Sole
Rafter was one of the more underrated tennis players. He won two US Open championships, launching him to a no. 4 ranking by the ATP. Reebok Dura Court Sole sneakers are known perfectly fitting a wider foot and capping it off strong for optimal durability on the court.
Roger Federer x Nike Air Vapor S2
In 2004, Nike replaced its popular Air Zoom Profile tennis shoe with the Nike Air Vapor S2—a shoe that started it all for the Air Zoom Vapor series, which is currently in its 9th iteration. Designed using the same Vapor technology seen in Nike soccer and running shoes of the time, the Air Vapor S2 was known for its top-notch speed and stability. It's no wonder the great Roger Federer didn't waste any time adopting the shoe as his own, as he wore a pair during his first of many US Open title run the same year they were released. The Vapor S2 featured a revolutionary lightweight upper design that was new to tennis sneakers. It was inspired by Formula One racing cars both in terms of design and performance.
Andre Agassi x Nike Air Flare
Andre Agassi is considered to be one of the most charismatic athletes to ever play tennis due to his haircut, interesting style choices, and smashing performances on the court. Agassi was sidelined due to a wrist injury in the early 1990s, but bounced back to win the US Open after hiring a new coach. Agassi wore the Nike Air Flares, which were the first sneakers to be suitable for a tennis match and a basketball game (talk about versatility).
Andy Roddick x Reebok Figjam DMX
Andy Roddick earned the world No. 1 ranking after winning his one and only Grand Slam title at the 2003 US Open. With a pair of the Reebok Figjam DMX on his feet, the 21-year-old Roddick beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in in straight sets in front of a rowdy American crowd. Early in his career, Roddick decked out in everything Reebok before switching to his well-known Babolat kicks later on down the road.
Novak Djokovic x adidas Barricade VI
In 2011, Novak Djokovic became only the sixth player to win three majors in one year, capped off by a win over former champion Rafael Nadal at the US Open. Djokovic wore a custom colorway of the Barricade VI that paid tribute to his home country of Serbia. Djokovic would return to the US Open final in the Barricade 7.0 the following year, only to lose to rival Andy Murray who also wore the Barricades.
Jimmy Connors x Converse Tennis Shoe
Before Jimmy Connors started rocking flashy Nike's that matched his charismatic personality on the tennis court, the American tennis legend dominated the competition in Converse sneakers that featured a much more simple design. While Connors didn't get his namesake signature from the brand until the mid-1980s, at the '82 US Open, he defeated Ivan Lendl in a pair of standard Converse tennis sneakers that performed exceptionally well on the hard courts of the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City. Along with a leather upper for comfort, the shoes featured a durable free-flex rubber outsole for quick and reliable mobility.
Roger Federer x Nike Air Zoom Vapor Speed
Roger Federer's return to the US Open final in 2005 yielded similar results as the previous year, as R-Fed defeated Andre Agassi for his second straight title at Flushing Meadows. However, this time around, he did it while wearing the Nike Air Zoom Vapor Speed. A shoe that is often times overlooked amongst the masses of popular Nike-branded tennis models, the Air Zoom Vapor speed held its own during crunch time. It not only helped improve Federer's footwork (as if he needed it), but the shoe featured a championship-quality design that appealed to the massed. Federer would go on to win a third straight US Open title the following year in a white version of the shoe.
Rafael Nadal x Nike Air Max Courtballistec 2.3
Having made a name for himself on the clay surface, Rafa Nadal completed his career Grand Slam at the 2010 US Open after defeating Novak Djokovic on the hard courts at the US Open. For the match, "The King of Clay" wore the Air Max Courtballistec 2.3, which featured a DragOn flexible upper for lightweight comfort. Earlier in the year, Nadal wore the same shoe in a different colorway for (at the time) his fifth French Open title. Though, for the US Open, Nike rolled out a Volt colorway of his signature shoe.
Jimmy Connors x Nike Forest Hills
Jimmy Connors, along with John McEnroe, was one of the first players to put Nike on the map in the tennis world. In 1974, Connors wore a pair of the Nike Forest HIlls—a shoe inspired by the location of the US Open at the time. The shoe looked almost identical to the Nike Wimbledon, and even put out similar results, as Connors wore the shoes for the first of five US Open titles on his resume.
Roger Federer x Nike Zoom Vapor IV
By 2007, Federer--having won the US Open the previous three years--had established himself as the best men's singles player in the game. So, as we set out for a fourth straight title at Flushing Meadows, Nike hooked him up with a customized all-black pair of the Zoom Vapor IV. The perfect shoe for one of the biggest stages in all of tennis, the shoe featured three dots brandishing the Swiss flag logo, and even had his signature RF logo printed on the heel. The Vapor IV's seem to have served him well (no pun intended), as Federer defeated Andy Roddick to keep his streak at the US Open alive.
Andy Murray x adidas Barricade 7.0
It took some time, but at the 2012 US Open, the tennis gods finally shined down on Andy Murray, as he got the dreaded grand slam monkey off his back with an impressive win over Novak Djokovic in what was dubbed by Sneaker Report as the "Battle of the Barricades." Both Murray and Djokovic wore the Barricade 7.0 in their final-round showdown, though it was Murray who came out victorious. While the win was undoubtedly a huge deal for Murray, it was adidas who really came out on top--having made a double appearance in the '12 final, and already having won the US Open the previous year on the feet of Djokovic.
John McEnroe x Nike Wimbledon
It didn't take long for the Nike Wimbledon to become one of the most successful Swoosh-branded tennis shoes off all time, and John McEnroe is a big reason why. The Wimbledon's design wasn't loud by any means, but the oversized swoosh on sides did coincide with McEnroe's fiery style of play quite well. It featured a low-cut design that helped promote agility, and allowed speedy players like McEnroe to move around the court with ease. The tennis legend had plenty of success while wearing the Wimbledon during the early 1980s, including at the '81, where McEnroe up-ended rival Bjorn Borg for the second consecutive time in New York.
Marat Safin x adidas Equipment Barricade
At the turn of the new millennium, 20-year-old Marat Safin created history by becoming the first Russian player to win the US Open. What’s more impressive is the way he did it, thrashing the legendary Pete Sampras in a straight-set victory that few had anticipated. Not only was it Safin’s first grand slam title it also marked the first time the adidas Barricade got major attention—so much so that the series is still going strong today. A perfect shoe to compliment Safin’s impeccable talent, the Equipment Barricade featured an aggressive upper design, along with a fluid rubber outsole reminiscent of other performance sneakers in adidas’ Equipment line.
Mats Wilander x Nike Air Trainer 1
Swedish player Mats Wilander won his first and only US Open in 1988 against Ivan Lendl while wearing a pair of the iconic Nike Air Trainer 1. The shoe featured a revolutionary forefoot strap that offered a lock-down fit for improved lateral movement and stability. Impressively enough, Wilander's US Open victory was one of three Grand Slam he won that year in the Air Trainer 1 (the other two being the French and the Australian Opens).
Stefan Edberg x adidas Edberg
Roger Federer's childhood idol, Stefan Edberg, was highly competitive in the mid to late '80s and early '90s He won a total of six Grand Slam titles, two of which came at the US Open. In 1992, he defeated Pete Sampras to earn back-to-back US Open titles. Edberg wore adidas for the entire duration of his career, including his namesake adidas Edberg signature model, which is considered by many to be one of the most timeless tennis sneakers ever.
Stan Smith x adidas Stan Smith
Like Rod Laver, Stan Smith was another one of those legendary players who was known for his brilliance on the tennis court, as well as his influence in the sneaker world. For the US Open, Smith laced up in his signature adidas Stan Smith model. Featuring a simplistic design, the low-top sneaker housed a white leather upper and a white rubber outsole to match. The Stan Smith was different from other adidas shoes of the time, as it didn't have the brand's trademark three stripes running down the sides. Instead, it featured perforations, allowing the shoe to breathe more easily.
Ivan Lendl x adidas Lendl Competition
Ivan Lendl pulled a three-peat at the US Open, with his most notable victory coming in 1986, for which he rocked the adidas Lendl Competition. The Competition was one of may models to brandish the Lendl name. The line was so popular, adidas even rolled out a series of apparel for the superstar. The Lendl Competition featured a mesh upper for breathability, along with a flexible rubber sole and a Ghillie Speed Lacing System borrowed running shoes. The shoe is still popular amongst sneaker collectors still today.
John McEnroe x Nike Air Challenge Court
By 1984, John McEnroe had already won the US Open three times prior. But his fourth title at Flushing Meadows was arguably the most memorable, as he downed rival Ivan Lendl in his signature Air Challenge Court sneakers. The leather/mesh upper combo was breathable for the court and is still considered a sought-after silhouette today.
Rod Laver x adidas Rod Laver
Rod Laver’s name should ring a bell. As the first and only male player to win two career Grand Slams, Laver is regarded by many as the greatest tennis player of all time. Equally as impressive was his namesake adidas Rod Laver signature shoe, which he wore throughout the entirety of his career. While the shoe wasn't released to the market until 1970, Laver wore a prototype of the shoe on the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills in New York City.
Arthur Ashe x BF Goodrich Jack Purcell
Arthur Ashe was a mover and shaker for the sport. As the first black tennis player to take Wimbledon, Australian Open, and US Open tournaments in the same year, Ashe's strides for the Civil Rights Movement led to his namesake, the Arthur Ashe USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens (named posthumously). Before Ashe took up the adidas Matchplay (and then later to Le Coq Sportif), at the 1968 US Open, he wore a pair of canvas Jack Purcell en route to a victory over Tom Okker.
Roger Federer x Nike Zoom Vapor V
Formerly ranked no. 1, Roger Federer, defended his US Open title successfully against Andy Murray in the Nike Zoom Vapor V in '08. The Zoom Vapor V is a Tinker Hatfield creation, approved by Federer for an optimal kick on the hard court with appropriate flex grooves and lightweight support. This was Federer's last US Open to date, and with little hope for a return victory on the tough concrete at Arthur Ashe, these kicks are sure to leave a legacy as their record-breaking athlete has.
Pete Sampras x Nike Air Oscillate
During a prolific 14-year career, Pete Sampras won an incredible 14 Grand Slam singles titles--more than enough to secure his spot as one the greatest tennis players ever. Sampras won the US Open five times in the '90s, with his last one coming against American rival Andre Agassi in 2002. Sampras was one of the most consistent players in the game. Not only did he hold the world No. 1 ranking for six consecutive years, but he wore the same Nike Air Oscillate relentlessly throughout his career.
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