Before John McEnroe made the Nike Air Trainer 1 famous as a tennis sneaker, he joined Ilie Nastase in wearing one of Nike’s first performance tennis shoes on court.
Less than a decade after the founding of Nike, the Oregon-based company joined the tennis fray in 1973, launching four performance tennis footwear styles, including what would later become known as the Nike Wimbledon and today as the NikeCourt Tennis Classic. Over the next two decades since its inception, this classic silhouette was worn by some of the sport’s top players, including McEnroe as he won multiple Grand Slam titles in the late 1970s and early 1980s (McEnroe didn’t switch to the Nike Air Trainer 1 until 1986).
While Nike has given the Tennis Classic the retro treatment for years, now as a lifestyle option, the line gets a full modernization on May 1, with Flyknit added to the shoe 43 years after its first release. The NikeCourt Tennis Classic Ultra Flyknit ($150) will fuse a Flyknit upper—an engineered yarn designed for lightweight strength that allows designers to build in stability and breathability as needed—with a flexible “ultra tooling” for added comfort, Nike says.
The May 1 release includes a men’s version in blue with a leather Swoosh on the side and “Nike” on the heel tab in a heritage look that ties to the original design. The Flyknit version will also have a cork sockliner for an added “aesthetic twist.” The women’s version (pictured above) goes a bit more streamlined with a printed Swoosh, fewer overlays and a higher, more sculpted collar.
Nike’s longest-standing tennis sneaker remains current, tying 1970s heritage with 2016 technology.
Tim Newcomb covers tennis sneakers for Tennis and tennis.com. Follow him on Twitter @tdnewcomb.