The classic elegance of Paris and the rough-and-tumble grit of burnt orange clay courts collide during tennis’ second major of the year. Its venue, regarded as the most sophisticated of its kind, showcases the most athletic tournament in the sport. Thus, the challenge Nike designers faced was how to gratify the Open’s polished fans and also supply the players with tough, high-performance apparel and footwear.
“The venue nods to the artistry, the more painterly side of tennis,” says Abby Swancutt, Apparel Design Director for NikeCourt. “Despite the fact that they may get dirty, we want them to feel and look beautiful and powerful.”
To create a look that would allow the athletes to show up in a striking way against the arresting backdrop, designers evaluated rich colors that contrasted with the orange clay. They started with a large palette but then tightened it up to eliminate whatever was getting lost. A really bold blue grabbed the most attention. So, they went big with it. This will be the second time designers use a flooded color scheme for a major (pink popped on Melbourne’s blue earlier this year).
Of course, making sure the product encouraged peak performance was also a priority. Designers added dimension to the color through the rich texture of engineered knit. “Not only does it provide anti-cling and breathability where the athletes need it, it takes the color from something flat to three-dimensional,” says Swancutt.
Rafael Nadal, the most decorated clay-court player in the history of tennis, will wear NikeCourt AeroReact Rafa top, Flex Ace shorts and Air Zoom Cage 3 footwear as he competes for his 11th title in Paris. “As a design team, we wanted Rafa to feel powerful on the clay, and the flooded color really helps that because it’s overwhelming; it makes him look like a force of nature,” says Swancutt.
Maria Sharapova will be competing for her third title in Paris in the NikeCourt Maria dress, Power short and Vapor X footwear.
The NikeCourt Paris Tennis collection is available now on nike.com and at select retailers.