American tennis legend Stan Smith — namesake of the still popular Adidas tennis shoe — a Wimbledon and US Open champion, comes to Wilmington this Thursday, May 21st. President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame since 2011, Smith will be a special guest of honor at a fundraiser that benefits youth in a successful program that combines tennis and education. The Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association Spring Benefit has a rich history of attracting well-known tennis figures to Wilmington (such as Jim Courier and Patrick McEnroe), and Smith is the latest to lend his star power and support for kids who are passionate about school and tennis.
Town Square Delaware caught up with Smith this week to learn a bit more about this tennis champion and what he’s been doing since he officially hung up his laces.
Town Square Delaware: The Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoe is making a colorful comeback! What a testament to the longevity of the brand and your name. Were you surprised when Adidas rolled out new versions for today’s younger, style-conscious generation?
Stan Smith: The Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoe has been around for a long time. Adidas launched it under my name in 1971 and sales continued until 2012, when they took it off the market to explore new marketing strategies for the shoe. They relaunched the line worldwide in 2014.
They have used social media to promote the new retro sneakers primarily to 18-24 ages — an age group that isn’t entirely familiar with the early Open era. It has gone pretty well and Adidas has developed some collaborations with people like fashion designer Raf Simmons and pop singer Pharell Williams, which has been effective.
TSD: You hold titles that are earned by so few — World #1 in 1972 and US Open and Wimbledon Singles champion. What aspects of your game gave you the winning edge, and how would you say those advantages stack up to today’s world class tennis athletes?
SS: I was an aggressive player in the serve and volley era and tried to put pressure on my opponents by attacking. Today the top players are aggressive baseliners with great ground strokes and usually strong serves that win points mainly from the baseline. And today’s top players are incredibly fit, with intense off-season workout regimens and conditioning that none of us experienced back in the early 70’s.
TSD: You are president of the recently renovated International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, which in fact re-opens this week. Please tell us a bit about this gem.
SS: We are in fact unveiling an entirely new museum, significantly improving and expanding the exhibits and our tennis facilities. It is very interactive and should be fun for all ages. Visitors will love the Roger Federer hologram, which will be a great addition. Fans can actually call matches as if they were expert commentators. They can look up information about their favorite players. There are over 1900 items in exhibit like rackets dresses, ball cans, photos, shoes, trophies etc. The displays are incredibly attractive, and in our new space, the entire flow and aesthetic appeal have been enhanced. The new offices and indoor courts will be great for the players, and the stadium has been upgraded tremendously.
TSD: We understand you run your own tennis academy for juniors. What kinds of kids participate in your program? And do you think tennis can change a kid’s life?
SS: Yes, we have a great team of instructors at the Stan Smith Tennis Academy at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, NC. We have about 50 kids during the school year and about 60 per week during the summer. These kids are committed to improving their games and playing tournaments. I think we are impacting their lives by helping them appreciate values like hard work, respect for others, teamwork, time management, and aspiring to be the best they can be on and off the court. Tennis has certainly enriched my life. It’s my hope that it brings joy and satisfaction to the many kids who try their hand at the sport and that they become life-long players.