Adidas Tennis celebrates Billie Jean King at the U.S. Open by dousing a women’s-specific Avacourt footwear model in blue. But not just any blue, the baby blue King made famous 50 years ago when she donned them as the main color for her signature Adidas tennis sneakers.
Along with Adidas Tennis celebrating King at the 2023 U.S. Open, using touches throughout the apparel and footwear line that tie back to the historic timeline in women’s sports, the German-based footwear maker this summer also released updates to their two flagship on-court tennis models: the Barricade and Ubersonic.
The Barricade model, which returned in 2021 after a hiatus in production since 2018, is now offered in a 2023 version, a model that stays true to the midsole and outsole of the 2021 release, but with tweaks to the upper.
Daniel Neuerburg, Adidas director of tennis and court sports, says any new approaches in the 2023 model came from learning from the reintroduction in 2021. “When we create with new materials and the new version, it is with the best for the athletes in mind,” Neuerburg tells me. “Really, all the updates we did we based on consumer insights and athlete feedback for pure performance.”
The Barricade 2023 receives a reimagining on the upper to reduce the break-in phase while upping the durability. One of the most popular models from the reintroduction range was the Parley version, which used mesh instead of foil on the forefoot upper. Adidas incorporated that mesh in the new model, giving more breathability, comfort and softness to the forefoot.
Adidas also switched out the foil on the toecap, instead using a flow-molded piece made of recycled Boost cushioning compound. The design change increases durability while keeping the addition sustainable.
Another twist to the 2023 model came from professional athlete insight—pros using the model include Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari and Felix Auger-Aliassime—asking for a simplified tongue construction for additional lacing stability. This “lace guidance” system is a racecar like experience, Neuerburg says.
Adidas didn’t touch the bottom unit because of the positive feedback they received from athletes. “When you look at our pro athletes, they are really enjoying the shoe,” he says. “Most of our athletes wearing the Barricade are very successful. We do not want to change too much as consistency is important for athletes.”
The Barricade, known as a control or stability shoe, is designed for a player wanting comfort in extreme movements, Neuerburg says, while the Ubersonic line is all about direct, lightweight speed.
“I usually love the comparison of cars,” Neuerburg explains. “For us the Barricade is the rally car and the Ubersonic is the Formula 1 car. Both cars are created for being as fast as possible, but you would not use the one for the other because of the tracks and everything else. The Barricade is built up more toward stability and in terms of durability it provides more substance. The Ubersonic follows the recipe of being reduced to the max, taking off everything trying to be as light as possible.”
Already reduced for a direct and fast approach, Neuerburg says the lace guidance system was the one area Adidas felt improvement was warranted on the Ubersonic. On the previous version, athletes needed to pull several times to get the laces cinched, whereas the 4.1 offers a streamlined way to ensure one pull creates a snug feeling aound the foot, he says.
By creating the adjusted lacing technique, it also allowed designers to integrate webbing to help secure the midfoot. “As a tennis player, as you stop you have to prevent your foot from crashing into the toe (of the shoe),” Neuerburg says. “A secure midfoot is really important and webbings allow us to secure the midfoot even better.”
Adidas slightly reworked the heel shape to improve the fit, getting closer to the foot to create a secure fit from midfoot to heel within the minimalistic construction.
The Ubersonic 4.1 also features an updated toe abrasion zone with recycled Boost as the bottom layer, covered with a recycled compound of TPU foil.
U.S. Open 2023
As the USTA celebrates 50 years of equal pay, using King literally as the poster personality for the honor, Adidas joins the party.
Adidas built a 12-piece U.S. Open range using cues from the iconic items from the era where King was one of the key people driving positive change not only for women’s tennis, but women’s sports. “We are very excited to have a lot of things that connect back to that time,” Neuerburg says.
A highlight for the line comes in the “team royal blue” color King made popular as the first female athlete to ever have a signature sneaker when she donned her Adidas model for the first time in 1974.
For 2023, Adidas is reimagining the Avacourt shoe, not only using the iconic blue, but also adding a suede leather tongue for a retro feel, a toe guard made from synthetic suede finishing and a heel collar lined with terry cloth. It all ties back to King’s signature sneaker.
The blue extends beyond the footwear, with a SST Jacket for both men and women available, a connection to the outfit King wore in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match.
Other key pieces in the collection include skirts, dresses, rights, a polo shirt, a T-shirt and shorts, all options for the Adidas athletes competing in New York City.
“Tennis history shows that greatness is never defined by gender,” says Pegula. “It hasn’t always been easy to choose this path—players like Billie Jean King had to fight for the right to be on the same court as men and gain respect from fellow players. I’m proud to be an advocate for gener equality in sport—both on and off the court.”