Adidas Ilie Nastase 1978 | The Berlin Tennis Gallery

Updated: Aug 17


Source: berlintennisgallery.com History Adidas Ilie NastaseNăstase was the first professional sports figure to sign an endorsement contract with Adidas in 1972.  He was the first male player to have won a French Open title without dropping a set (1973).

The cut prototype of the same racket shows the layers of the interior of this truly unique model. At that time, such pieces were strictly confidential and never left the research and development departments of the manufacturers. Due to these restrictive terms of confidentiality, it is only now after 40 years that The Berlin Tennis Gallery can publicly display this rare piece of sports artistry.

The History of Adidas in the Tennis Business*

Let us spotlight the history of one of the biggest sporting goods brands in the world from a tennis angle. The brand with three stripes was founded in the mid-1920s, Adolf “Adi” Dassler and his brother, Rudolf, began making shoes in their mother’s house under the name “Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory”. Perhaps most notably in those early days, Dassler got world-renowned sprinter Jesse Owens to wear his handmade spikes during the 1936 summer Olympic Games. In 1949, Adi and Rudolph had a falling out, and Adi created what we now know as adidas.


Horst Dassler, the son of Adi, had the idea to create the first leather tennis shoe. The shoe was named the “Adidas Robert Haillet” after the French professional tennis player. When he retired, Adidas, with the help of American tennis manager Donald Dell, persuaded Stan Smith to wear the shoe. In 1971, Stan Smith wore the Adidas Haillet on his way to number one in the world rankings, though the shoes’ name didn’t change to “adidas Stan Smith” until 1978. 1971 also marked the first appearance of the iconic, and now retro, Trefoil logo.


This was only the start of adidas’ illustrious history with tennis greats.  Throughout the sixties and seventies, adidas could be found on the feet of Stan Smith and Illie Nastase. During the eighties and nineties, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg wore the brand with three stripes, along with one of the greatest players of all time, Steffi Graf. Lendl even played with an Adidas tennis racquet for a while, the GTX Pro throughout the 1980s.


Edberg got his own shoe, the Torsion Edberg Comp, and went on to win 6 grand slam singles titles. Look for a commemorative version of this shoe this fall. Steffi Graf has had her own adidas tennis shoes, and won an astounding 22 major singles titles. Graf won the 1996 US Open wearing a new line of shoes incorporating


“Feet You Wear” technology. The idea here was to develop a tennis shoe that shared and highlighted the natural motion of a foot for more stability and balance. The technology really paved the way for some other notable shoe brands.


Around the turn of the millennium, adidas ramped up their commitment to tennis shoes when they developed the Barricade. The shoe had a six-month outsole warranty, and was worn by two-time grand slam Champ Marat Safin when he won the 2000 US Open. The Barricade was worn by a long list of hall of famers, as well as hall of famers to be, and had by our count gone through about 10 different versions that helped redefine stability, comfort, and durability in a tennis shoe. Late in 2018, though, adidas added a new shoe model called the SoleCourt Boost, which picked up where the Barricade left off. It represents an evolution of the iconic shoe worn by so many. Within this new “Court” line, there are models for players of any skill level.


Over the past several years, adidas has also produced an adizero line of tennis shoes focusing on lower overall weight, and strong ventilation. Top-ten superstars Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev wear the Ubersonic model, which is becoming increasingly popular among recreational players, as well.


On the apparel side, adidas has used technologies like Climalite and Climacool for decades. The materials help keep athletes cool and dry in the toughest on-court conditions. We’ve also seen unique partnerships, such as when the brand with three stripes teamed up with fashion-icon Stella McCartney in the mid-2000s. Since then, we’ve seen a number of the world’s best sporting stylish Stella McCartney tennis apparel and shoes.


In recent years, adidas has focused much more heavily on sustainability efforts, and reducing their carbon footprint. The brand launched an initiative called Parley for the Oceans to coincide with the Australian Open in 2019. Their apparel and shoes utilized plastic waste recovered from beaches and coastal communities. The brand is increasingly focused on using more earth-friendly and sustainable resources, while continuing to develop top-of-the-line equipment.


*Reference: Tennis Express by Sam Jones


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