When Novak Djokovic played his first match for more than six months in the Kooyong Classic exhibition event in Melbourne on Wednesday much of the talk surrounded his new service action, which he appears to have modified as a result of the elbow problem which had been keeping him off the court.
However eagle-eyed observers will have noticed another change during the former world No 1’s encouraging victory over Dominic Thiem. Djokovic was wearing blue-and-white Asics shoes during his 6-1 6-4 win and wore them again in the evening when he took part in the Tie Break Tens exhibition in Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park.
The news was confirmed the following day as Djokovic revealed that during his time rehabilitating he had also taken the decision to part company with Adidas, his long-term shoe of choice, and had worked with the technical team at Asics to develop a bespoke version of the GEL-RESOLUTION.
Announcing Djokovic as their newest brand ambassador, Paul Miles, Chief Marketing Officer at Asics, said: “Over the years tennis has undergone rapid change with players demanding not only speed and agility in a shoe but also stability and durability. Understanding these needs is critical to realising our long-term vision to become the No 1 footwear brand in tennis.
“Our partnership with Novak demonstrates our commitment to the tennis category as one of our key focus areas globally.”
Speaking at the launch of the new shoe, Djokovic explained how the decision came about. “It was a big move for me,” he said. “I have played in the adidas tennis shoe for most of my life and a tennis shoe is an item of your apparel that you don't want to mess with too much. I am very grateful to the whole Asics team for being patient in the process of customising the shoe.”
The process of customisation has taken a few months, with various models being tried by the six-time Australian Open champion.
“I started running in them, testing them, and it was a most intense process,” Djokovic said. “I am very happy with the shoe.”
In the longer term the Asics team will be working with Djokovic to develop the shoe for all surfaces.
The shoe is focused on stability, with The Lateral Support Brace, which enhances stability on the forefoot. The redesigned FlexionFit upper is covered by polyurethane (PU) for support and comfort. The External Heel Counter places additional emphasis on rear-foot support and stability
“My movement is very quick,” Djokovic said. “I do slide a lot on all surfaces, so I need that stability.
“Movement is everything in our sport. You need to feel comfortable wearing the shoes.”
Djokovic has not played competitively since Wimbledon. He pulled out of last week’s Qatar Open, saying he was not yet ready to return, and has yet to confirm that he will play in the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. Djokovic went into the draw as the No 14 seed.
“Novak has recently returned to court from his injury,” Motoi Oyama,Chairman, President and CEO, Representative Director, Asics, said. “We are sure he will be among for an even higher level performance and we will be supporting his journey developing products for him.”
The GEL-RESOLUTION NOVAK will be available to buy in the UK from January 15 2018.