At the beginning of 2021, few outside of the United Kingdom had heard of Emma Raducanu.
The British player came from nowhere, entering the US Open as a qualifier and winning the tournament without dropping a set. Her rise was dubbed the Fairytale of New York, and it catapulted her to superstardom.
It also meant exposure for brands she was associated with, not least Nike, which supplied her footwear. She wore the Nike React Vapor NXT for the tournament, and in the immediate aftermath, it became the most coveted tennis shoe in the world. Vogue even reveals they were the fourth-most coveted product in the world, behind Prada’s raffia tote bog, Versace’s Medusa Aevitas platforms, and Bottega Venetta’s terry towel slides.
Since then, Raducanu has faltered a little, and she’s falling behind the favorites in the latest Coral tennis odds for both the US Open and Wimbledon. However, aged just 19, she still has a big future ahead of her, and failure in either of those tournaments wouldn’t be the end of her. She’s highly marketable, not only for her tennis prowess but her youth and overall image.
That’s why Nike will be eager to retain their relationship with her; they’ll be hoping she’ll be sporting the Vapor NXT this summer as she takes on all comers at Wimbledon. It could see a spike in sales once again if she does, but would a purchase be wise for the amateur player?
One issue Raducanu has had in recent months has been blistering; she was left barely being able to walk in her 6-1 6-1 defeat against Marketa Vondrousova during Britain’s recent BJK Cup qualifier. That may suggest an ill-fitting shoe, and perhaps she hadn’t worn in the Vapor NXT adequately. Many reviews have suggested they’re a super-comfortable shoe, but only when worn in for a couple of hours. Also, if you’ve wider feet, you may need to bulk them out with a thicker sock.
Top players can afford to get through tennis shoes like you and I get through bottles of water, but for the amateur player, a durable shoe is best to keep costs down. The Vapor NXT feels substantial, but they have been reported to wear quite quickly. The fly weave material on the upper allows your feet to breathe, but it also quickly wears down due to lightweight upper protection. It was a problem noted by critics of the Vapor Pro and Vapor X, and whilst the NXT are a little more durable, they’re still very quick to wear through.
If the shoe’s durability is its weakness, the traction and balance are definitely positive. Raducanu slid out of shots with ease at Indian Wells, and it’s easy to see why with the unique tread on the underside of the shoe. The grip is conducive to making quick turns but allows for sliding smoothly out of shots as well. They work well on a hard court, rather than on grass, and the outsole is quiet and not prone to squeaking.
The shoes aren’t particularly light; a woman’s size eight weighs around 15 ounces, which is certainly heavier than some. They don’t feel cumbersome, but perhaps a little more durability from a relatively heavy shoe would have been nice.
Once they’re on your feet, they don’t feel chunky or weighty, which is a bonus. They hide their weight well and won’t slow you down.
Emma Raducanu has recently changed her coach, but she would be wise not to change her shoe. A top pro can certainly handle the lack of durability as long as they continue to wear pairs in, ready for use in the big games. They are comfortable, solid shoes, designed perhaps for those at the top end of the game who can handle buying multiple pairs per campaign.