Bright lights at night define New York City. And more than any of the majors, the home city of the U.S. Open also defines players' on-court apparel. This year, you'll see brands embracing the city's streetscape, architecture and art in their designs. As apparel designers rush to have their athletes stick out from the crowd, night sessions also become a primetime stage for style. Below, we round up what you can expect from players' on-court fashion in 2016's final Grand Slam.
“The design ethos is all about bright color spectrums across the collection that mimic the chromatic shift of neon lights and the energy and embracing the stage and lights of the year’s last calendar slam,” says Samuel Shipley, Nike Tennis apparel design director. “We try to apply a sense of connection with the audience and for the U.S. Open, we wanted to represent the frenetic energy that [Andre] Agassi described as a ‘bee hive.’”
Temperature and humidity also influences design, so the men’s apparel—you'll see it on Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov—features a low-blade collar and a brand-new engineered knit with different sized holes in mesh that regulate heat. The women’s collection uses the same engineering for breathability, whether in waistbands or tanks.
“We can design the engineered knit to play a variety of roles, including comfort, breathability and seamless construction for the athletes,” Shipley says.
For design, expect the women’s style—we’ll see Serena Williams and Madison Keys in the skirt—to feature pleats that expose hits of color under the lights. Whether pinks, yellows or blues, the night outfits of black with color aim to strike visually.
Bold geometry has defined Adidas Grand Slam collections in 2016 and the U.S. Open adizero and Baricade collections will both offer boldness in their own right. The adizero collection shows off a triangular print inspired by the architecture and landscape of New York in bold color combinations. Alexander Zverev, the youngest player in the ATP top 25, will wear the men’s polo shirt and Bermuda shorts while Ana Ivanovic, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber will all mix and match from the skirts and dresses offered in the women’s collection.
“The U.S. Open is an extremely special tournament to me, in one of my favorite cities, so it’s great to be able to bring a little piece of that onto the court with my adizero outfit,” says Ivanovic.
The men’s Barricade collection, worn by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Dominic Thiem, stays with bold unicolor offerings in “tech ink” and “slash red” to remain bold, but without the geometry of the adizero collection.
Whether adizero or Barricade, Adidas will use lightweight and ventilating materials to encourage the quick evaporation of sweat and move heat away from the body.
“Each Grand Slam is unique, playing off the energy and vibrancy of its host city,” says Lotta Jurica, global category designer for Adidas Tennis. “We harness this energy in our collections for each tournament, refreshing our ranges to give them the geographical and seasonal relevance these great sporting moments deserve.”
Milos Raonic will wear a broad-striped crew for the U.S. Open, featuring a full mesh back for increased ventilation, paired with a classic breathable flat-front short with a faux fly. New Balance designer Bob Smith had a little something extra in mind for the Canadian star.
“I’ve had a few conversations with Milos about him seeing himself as a superhero as a way of firing himself up for matches,” says Smith. “His girlfriend Danielle asked me to design a ‘M’ in the style of the Superman ‘S’ to put on t-shirts to give to his friends when he plays.”
“I have a very close relationship with Bob,” Raonic says about working the New Balance designer. “We send all these ideas back and forth, some ludicrous, and when he makes these things happen it is a lot of fun.”
Raonic says he’s proud of the latest superhero design and loves the quality of the caricature. “A lot of ideas can come over a silly dinner and he executes them quite well,” he says.
Smith did that, but then teamed with Japanese illustrator Akira Yonekawa to depict Raonic as a cartoon superhero for use on additional shirts and stickers that we can expect to see in his player’s box.
On the women’s side, for players such as Heather Watson, New Balance offers up a mix of blues and reds in a highly patterned skort and yarra tank combination. For those who want a more classic look, New Balance also has an all-blue Victoria dress made of stretch mesh and a “daring side slit gives a range of motion and extra flair.”
John Isner will have his choice on how to display red, white and blue as part of the brand-new Fila Heritage collection. From crewnecks to polo shirts, the color scheme shades were chosen from the brand’s archives and paired with pinstriped textured mesh, stretch fabric and subtle patterns for a fresh style.
The line features five different silhouettes of tops, with three crewneck options and two polos, pairing with a matching short and jacket.
The women’s side has black standing in for navy in Fila’s traditional colors, joining red and white. With six different tops, including four tanks, a cap sleeve and three-quarter-length sleeve, the color blocking and blurred stripes aim for a modern aesthetic. The bottoms feature pleated skorts or black shorts with a striped belt. Fila also has two dresses.
Expect to see Gael Monfils and David Goffin strapping on either Ascis’ pomegranate or white short-sleeve tops to match plenty of “blue jewel” accessories, including wristbands, hats, sneakers and socks.
The women’s side, worn by Coco Vandeweghe, offers up short-sleeve tops, tanks and skorts in a “soothing sea” light blue/green or a “parachute purple,” providing a softer side to the U.S. Open's courts.
With all the bright lights of New York focused on Flushing Meadows, every brand has put its best design effort forward. Now it is a matter of which athlete will be wearing the designs while hoisting the trophy.
As we’ve seen with Andy Murray all season, basic black and white will remain the Scot's color palette for the U.S. Open. Under Armour kept one of the tournament favorites but interchanged the colors based on day matches (white top, white hat and white shoes to pair with black shorts) and night matches (black from head to toe).
Murray will wear the same ArmourVent V-neck top he wore at Wimbledon, with mesh detailing throughout the back. Murray will also have matching hats and wristbands and switch between a white and black pair of his Custom UA Pursuit Tennis shoes.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.