It’s been a fantastic US Open so far, and a few of us from Rackets & Runners were fortunate enough to see one of the tournament's best matches: Medvedev vs. Alcaraz. Arthur Ashe was electric, and the two went blow for blow in a clash of heavyweights before Medvedev won in four. What a time to be alive!
There have been some other wonderful storylines: Aryna Sabalenka will become world #1 once the rankings refresh, and there’s a brand new American sensation who’s sure to make his mark in tennis for the next two decades.
One thing that seems to stay constant every year, though, is Novak Djokovic’s dominance. At the time of writing this article, he’s into his fourth grand slam final of the year, a truly remarkable feat. After watching Medvedev’s brilliance in the flesh, I have difficulty saying it will be anything other than a grueling match, but who can write off the Joker?
By the time most of you read this article, our remaining questions will be answered, but for now, we will look at some of the cool gear we spotted around Flushing Meadows over the last two weeks.
On Roger Pro and Ben Shelton
That brand new American sensation? His name is Ben Shelton. It’s not often that Frances Tiafoe looks subdued on Arthur Ashe during a US Open quarterfinal, but that's what happened when he came up against the 20-year-old. Ben Shelton has been incredible this tournament, hitting some of the biggest serves New York has ever seen, thundering massive forehands from anywhere on the court, and captivating a crowd like only a few have before. It’s funny; Ben Shelton almost reminds us of someone…
There are obvious similarities to Roger Federer, and it seems the Swiss realized that before most others because he signed Shelton to the brand ON. It makes total sense: huge shots, undeniable charisma, and the fact that he’s American; he’s a marketing dream. Shelton was fully decked out in New Balance gear at the Australian Open in January, but now, he’s wearing ON from head to toe and looks great.
He rocks the sleeveless look, no question, and hopefully, we’ll bring in ON clothing soon, but he’s also wearing the clean-looking Roger Pro. As the name suggests, the shoe was Federer himself, and it’s great to see it in good hands (or good feet, I guess). In terms of performance, the Roger Pro is exactly what a pro’s shoe should be. It features a stiff carbon plate in the outsole and a soft, adaptive upper that quickly molds to the foot.
Shelton suffered a tough loss to Djokovic in the semis, but I'm guessing we’ll see a lot more of this guy in the future.
Iga Swiatek: To On or not to On?
ON’s Ben Shelton signing flew a little under the radar because it came directly after they announced that they had signed another player, Iga Swiatek. Signing the world #1 was always going to make more of a splash, but it hasn’t only been smooth sailing between the two.
Unfortunately, Iga crashed out in the Round of 16 after a shocking loss to Jelena Ostapenko, and as last year’s champion, she’s dropping so many points that she’ll lose her number-one ranking to Aryna Sabalenka next week. But what’s up with her new ON attire?
Like Shelton, she’s also wearing ON from head to toe… or is she? Her iconic cap is branded ON. Check. Her shirt and skirt? Check. Her shoes? Uh-oh… PR disaster incoming! Those aren’t ONs.
They’ve definitely tried to hide it with a whiteout colourway, but Swiatek is not wearing ON shoes; she’s wearing Asics Gel-Resolution 9s. It’s not a good look for the Swiss brand that their star athlete chooses not to wear their flagship shoe, but that’s a pill they’re going to have to swallow if she doesn’t yet feel comfortable making the switch.
Whether it’s performance-based or superstition, we don’t really know, but one thing is certain: the Gel-Resolution is one heck of a shoe, so it very well could be that Iga doesn’t consider ON’s lineup to scratch. Especially in terms of sliding potential, the Resolution is leaps and bounds ahead of the Roger Pro. Sliding is essential to Iga’s defense, so if she feels more confident in the Resolution, ON will have to work hard to come up with something good!
Berrettini X Hugo Boss
Speaking of the Gel-Resolution 9, a familiar face is slowly making a comeback after a couple of tough years on tour. Matteo Berrettini has been struggling with injury for the better part of two years, and he’s also been very open about his mental struggles off the court.
We sometimes think professional athletes are made of stone, but they are humans just like the rest of us, and when big stars like Berrettini let us in under their shells, it starts a conversation that could help others in the future. They are under constant pressure and scrutiny, and while players like Alcaraz seem to revel in the spotlight, not everyone will react the same. Hopefully, Berrettini can find peace and joy in playing again because he’s fantastic to watch on his day.
Not much has to be said about Berretini’s marketability. Tall, handsome, enormous forehand; you get the drill, and he’s been actively growing his brand off the court. He switched over to Asics a while back and partnered with Hugo Boss to release a limited edition Berretini Gel-Resolution 8 that looks stunning.
Unfortunately, the poor guy can’t catch a break and suffered another injury in the second Round after looking sharp against Humbert in the first. Berrettini, you’ve got the support of the Rackets & Runners team; we wish you a quick recovery and hope to see you back on court as soon as possible!
What is Tiafoe wearing?
Tiafoe lights it up in New York during the US Open. He feeds off the crowd and plays some of the most electrifying tennis we see during the two weeks. Unfortunately, playing against another American made it a little harder for him to captivate 100% of the crowd’s energy, so he suffered a bit against Shelton, but he still played great throughout the tournament. The guy is proof that home-field advantage matters in tennis, and when an in-form Tiafoe and a pumped-up crowd combine, fireworks fly.
A couple of things stuck out to us more eagle-eyed viewers watching Tiafoe. For one, his shoes looked great, but they aren’t normal Nike GP Turbos.
If we are to venture a guess (which is what we do during Gearspotting), these are the soon-to-be-released Nike GP Challenger 1. The Turbo is on the chopping block; they’re rebranding their bouncy comfort shoe, and we can’t wait to get our hands on a pair. We’ll have to wait until the Australia Open for the full release, but when Nike makes a shoe, it’s usually good. Stay tuned!
The other thing that stuck out? Yonex just released the brand new Percept, yet Tiafoe’s rackets are still painted like the old Vcore Pro. He’s the face of the new Percept and, like it was with Swiatek, it’s not a good look when your flagship athlete doesn’t use the product they’re supposed to endorse, especially on the biggest stage.
There are a few possible reasons why Tiafoe isn’t using the new Percept colour. He may be superstitious; after all, he’s had his best year with the Vcore Pro colour, and he might also not like how it looks. What's more likely, though, is that he’s not ready to switch his frames out for new ones. Over time, a racket’s graphite will fatigue and soften up, so even if Yonex can produce whatever racket is hiding under the Percept colourway, they can’t recreate the softer sensation his actual frames have developed.
Tiafoe used the new Percepct colourway in Toronto but lost in the first round, so if there was ever a reason to return to his old rackets, that was it. We’re sure he'll switch over eventually, but he wasn’t about to risk his US Open on some faulty sticks!
Our US Open Gearspotting always has a tinge of sadness because it marks the end of the Grand Slam season.
We’ve got two amazing finals left, but then it’s a four long months of thumb-twiddling and staring into the distance before January 2024. It has been an awesome 2023, with the ATP & WTA Finals providing one last chance for amazing matches before the curtain closes!