Staying cool will be key at the 2016 Australian Open, as temperatures reached a high of 107°F (42°C) on Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia, just days before the start of the tournament.
For Andy Murray, beating the heat can prove a tough task.
“The Australian Open is always one of the hottest tournaments I play in all season so any extra edge to keep me cool is essential,” he says ahead of his 11th appearance in Melbourne.
Working with Under Armour—he signed a four-year deal with the company in January 2015—Murray helped to test the brand's new product, CoolSwitch, which he and American Sloane Stephens will debut at this year's Australian Open. Launching as a baselayer in spring 2016, this two-year research and development project created a print that cools the body, heavily trialed and evaluated by Murray along the way.
Glen Silbert, vice president of men’s product for the Baltimore-based company, says the crystal pattern on the majority of the inside of the fabric does three things to promote body cooling. First, it has an instant cooling sensation upon first touch. But he says that instead of that feeling evaporating in heat and sweat, the moisture from the body interacts with the print on the garment and releases a cooling sensation, similar to how menthol gum feels and reacts when you breathe in. “It is not the same exact science, but the air and water interact with this technology for a cooling sensation,” Silbert says. And the print also absorbs heat from the surface of the skin.
“The ability to lower that surface-level temperature of the skin creates an opportunity for the body to cool itself,” he says. “Small increments of cooling create an opportunity for the body.”
While not exclusive for tennis, Silbert says testing the product with an athlete the caliber of Murray was a benefit to the company. Using the new CoolSwitch technology, Under Armour built a kit specifically for Murray’s use in the Australian Open. “It is for the tennis court,” Silbert says. “Because Andy does get hot and sweats a lot, (we thought) how cool would it be to create this kit for him and let him train in it, compete in it and do whatever he wants.”
"[I'm] particular about the product I train and compete in," he says. "It not only has to feel good and allow me to play without causing distractions, but if it has performance benefits to either keep me cool or dry then that is what I gravitate toward.” Murray also says feeling cooler allows him to tire less quickly.
With Murray choosing function over style, Silbert says, Under Armour has worked to perfect his interests around comfort, everything from his short length to pocket depth. He’ll also now wear Under Armour shoes exclusively moving forward.
For the Australian Open, Murray will don grays, black and white in sleeveless and short-sleeve looks with a hat—the CoolSwitch tech also appears in accessories, such as the band on the cap.
“Product performance is first and foremost to me,” Murray says. “In terms of how it looks, I like to stick with a clean and classic style with an aggressive edge. I play with a lot of emotion and Under Armour has expressed that through the darker, more menacing-looking kits, which I like. It has been a lot of fun working with the UA team on creating this distinct style.”
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and design for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.