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French Open Roundup and Shoe Spotting

Roland Garros doesn’t have quite as much of a gear merry-go-round as the opening and closing Grand Slams, so instead of a full-on Gearspotting, let’s talk about some shoes.
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Australia and the US are where brands go all out for product releases. Because of that, we see fewer flashy new frames in the hands of our favourite champions during Roland Garros or Wimbledon, but that gives us a chance to talk about their shoes, another essential part of a pro player’s setup.

Shoes are the connection between you and the ground, and considering how much aggressive movement there is in tennis, finding the right pair is crucial. Pros sometimes struggle with this decision, which is why we’ve got plenty to talk about today, so let’s get right into it.

Andre Rublev: From Nike to K-Swiss with a side of Frustration

Andrey Rublev has been wearing Nike Vapors for most of his career (most recently the Vapor Pro 2), but he’s just switched to a pair of K-Swiss shoes. At first glance, they look like Ultrashot 3s (which we gave a glowing review and recently ranked 4th in our Top 5 Shoes for stability), but Rublev’s pair doesn’t look like any colourway I’ve ever seen.

In fact, after closer inspection, a few things don’t match up exactly with the 3, so I'm guessing he’s wearing a prototype or maybe even the final, unreleased version of the Ultrashot 4. Considering how well-rounded the 3 is, we should all be excited about an update to this shoe.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: Rublev's "frustration," which we saw in round three.

Frustration is a nice way to put it. In his matchup against Matteo Arnaldi, Rublev had what can only be described as the Mona Lisa of meltdowns as he lost in three on Suzanne Lenglen in front of a crowd who could not believe its eyes. We’ve seen Rublev lose it before, particularly this year, but this one was different; he really was unhinged.

I’m not here to criticize Rublev; in fact, I’d like to defend him, not because his actions were right, but because they give us a raw perspective on the brutal nature of the game.

Tennis is one of the most mentally taxing sports because it’s you alone, against yourself and your opponent. There’s no one else to blame, and when things go wrong, natural instinct is to get angry. While some players can control that anger, Rublev, like most of us, struggles to. His outbursts show us that expressing frustration is a legitimate reaction to the stresses of tennis, and while channeling it may be better, it certainly doesn’t make you a bad player and especially not a bad person.

Rublev is a gem off the court. He brings a smile to every interview and backs up his glowing personality by dedicating 100% of his “Play for the Kids” Rublo casual wear profits to supporting children. As long as his on-court outbursts don’t turn into abuse of officials, opponents, or fans, we should remember that despite his flaws, he has a heart of gold and is a blessing to the tennis community.

Let’s not hold him or other players on a pedestal of perfection just because they're professionals. He is human like anyone else and we can take his example in different ways because his other qualities far outweigh the momentary lapses we know tennis can so easily trigger.

 
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Iga Swiatek — To On or Not to On

In our US Open Gearspotting last year, we titled our Iga Swiatek section “To On or not to On” because despite wearing On attire, she still hadn’t switched to their shoes. There are a number of reasons professional players choose not to switch shoes — just look at Sinner and Alcaraz — it could be superstition, performance, or just that they’re so used to their shoes that they don’t want to switch.

Whatever kept her with Asics back then isn’t anymore because she’s now wearing the On Roger Pro 2, which should be coming into the store very soon. It looks like quite a significant update to the original Roger Pro, with the upper changing from mostly mesh to textile. Hopefully, we can get it on the court and review it soon!

Now how about that second round match against Naomi Osaka! The Japanese star made her long-awaited comeback this year and was starting to pick up steam before coming up against the impossible task of beating Iga at Roland Garros. It turned into a blockbuster match — certainly the best of the tournament so far — and after handing the Pole a breadstick in the second set, Osaka found herself with a match point up 5-3 in the third.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t finish it off, and when you give Iga an inch, she’s going to gobble it up, take the mile, and beat you, which she did. Kudos to Osaka for putting up such a fight but Chatrier has turned into Swiatek’s garden; she’s lost two games in her last two matches, as of June 4th. I think, because of a certain Spaniard, this level of dominance is easy to trivialize, but that is quite frankly ridiculous. Three bagels in a row and a cumulative one hour and 42 minutes of court time in two matches is a scary level. She’s lost one match here since winning her first title in 2020 and if she makes it three in a row this year, that could mark a symbolic passing of the torch from Rafa to Iga in terms of French Open dominance. But first, she’s gotta go through Coco Gauff.

“Coco” Gauff

This match will be over by the time you read this, but as of June 4th, Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek are playing tomorrow in a hotly anticipated semifinal. Now, yes, Swiatek is looking unbeatable, and realistically, with her 10-1 record against the American and having just beaten her in Rome, she is the heavy favourite. Still, Guaff has been playing at an extremely high level as well. She just lost her first set in the tournament, but otherwise, has been handing out breadsticks and humiliations on her way to the semis. She’s 12-3 on clay this year, and while I was going to make an Anglo-critical “finding her feet” joke to transition smoothly into talking about her shoes, this is actually her best surface. Unlike most Americans she has a 73% win rate on clay and only 69%and 70% on hard and grass respectively, so no jokes, let’s just talk about the the New Balance Coco.

You probably know by now, but Guaff has her very own New Balance signature model called the “Coco.” Like the 996 and CT-Rally, it comes in a grey colour for the French — somehow it’s both flashy and understated. As a pro player shoe, the Coco is special because it offers some unique playability you don’t always find with more mainstream models.

It has a carbon shank running the length of the outsole, which is rigid for lateral cuts and stability but also provides fantastic energy return on push-off points. It makes for quite a grounded feel that’s not nearly as sluggish as other stability shoes. Now admittedly, it does feel quite raw — it’s not traditionally comfortable especially if you like a cushioned ride — but it’s so aggressive that it makes you feel like you can get to any ball, which Guaff demonstrates perfectly.

It really is a fun shoe to wear, and while it certainly isn’t for everyone, I’m happy it’s out there. I hope that more brands will release pro-specific models like this because it gives us a chance to literally step into their shoes for a bit.

Hopefully, the end of the tournament is as exciting as it has been so far, and we’ll convene again soon after Wimbledon!

If you want to try on any of these shoes, you can visit our awesome shoe fitters in-store or check them out online.

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