As we begin a new year tennis is already back in the spotlight with the Australian Open gaining press coverage for all the wrong reasons. On the other side of the world, ellesse and Patta have been putting the sport into a better light. Despite its presence on the world stage and lineup of top-tier athletes, many would argue against the accessibility and inclusivity of the sport. With ‘City Slam’, ellesse and Patta look to kick open the doors on the court and alter this perception.
Landing as the first phase in an ongoing partnership, City Slam saw ellesse and the Amsterdam-bred global streetwear brand Patta embark on a mission to cultivate conversation and meaningful impacts surrounding the culture of tennis. Hitting West London on last summer, the community-based tennis tournament welcomed a diverse selection of sixteen home-grown talents from inner-city areas. The prize? A one-year scholarship for individual training programs funded by ellesse and Patta, alongside a slew of slick tennis equipment and kit.
The event’s proximity to the Wimbledon Championship served the perfect parallel, creating a space in which discussion surrounding the existing culture of the sport was at the forefront of play. Following the sharp decline in numbers of UK tennis competitors between 2016 and 2020, City Slam served as a stark reminder that young, hungry, and highly talented players still exist, calling the sport’s financial inaccessibility and social diversity into question.
Each day’s matches took the uniform feel of tennis’ sporting whites and remixed them courtesy of Patta and ellesse. The typically plain canvas of polos, shorts, and skirts received an electric dose of Patta’s instantly recognizable streetwear flair, with the off-court tracksuits being a particularly bold pull on the eye. The provision of consciously designed kits was more than just an aesthetic statement. It’s also a commentary on the fact that inaccessibility to both kit and equipment is a huge drawback for many young players attempting to push their love of the sport further. By supplying these uniforms to the participants, they created a unified front on which each contender was given a level playing field regardless of background or geography.
Discussing the large-scale impact this collaboration seeks to have Timothy Sabajo, General Manager of Patta said, “Working in partnership with ellesse and Performance Plus Sport is an opportunity for Patta to join a revolution in changing the perception of tennis and making it more accessible for everyone. We’re excited to be partnering with ellesse on something that is so close to our hearts.”
As each of the sixteen young girls and boys took to the court, the levels of skill, passion, and dedication to winning were clear. Whether or not it was known to the players, this was not only an opportunity to showcase their power and finesse, but also ensure complete clarity on the fact that sports should know no singular face or background. Although the conversation at the core of ellesse and Patta’s partnership is serious in its motivations and goals, the tournament came to life with an energy that celebrated sport’s crosssection with streetwear and music. Unlike the tense silences amongst the crowd during play at major tournaments, City Slam played out with a more eclectic feel. With on-site commentary courtesy of comedian Munya Chawama, grime high-flyer Big Zuu landing against a backdrop of high-hop rhythms from NARX, the event offered an alternate take on the established rules of play. Comedic whit, one-liners, and playful banter from the hosts played an integral role in shifting the needle, creating an environment in which multiple facets of culture can exist without distracting from the raw talent on display.
Bringing together each of these elements is a step in the right direction to dismantling tradition, and breathing new life into the sport alongside a generation with such great potential. City Slam marked the beginning of a new face for tennis, both on and off the court.