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Article Courtesy:  Don Dodson, The News-Gazette

IMG 6940 300x200 Ex University of Illinois Tennis Players Promote Athletic Tennis Apparel
Former Illini tennis greats have helped promote an upstart tennis apparel brand that’s targeting the youth market.

Amer Delic, Rajeev Ram, Kevin Anderson and Ryler DeHeart have all worn Athletic DNA apparel while competing professionally.

That brand, launched four years ago, sells shirts, shorts, socks and hats for men and boys to wear on the tennis courts.

This spring, the Kirkland, Wash.-based company plans to debut a women’s line that includes shirts, skirts, tank tops, shorts, pants, track suits and hoodies.

Former Illini tennis player Michael Calkins, who graduated in 2004, was one of the founders of Athletic DNA, which concentrates on the junior tennis circuit.

That’s a market Nike, Adidas and the other heavy hitters in sports apparel haven’t pursued aggressively.

But Evan Zeder, the company’s director of sales and sports marketing, is doggedly doing so.

Last summer, he took an RV to junior tennis tournaments across the country, making sure players got to see and sample Athletic DNA apparel.

“The secret is being in front of them face to face, having an actual brand that’s cool, servicing and supporting the junior tournament,” he said.

That approach yielded results.

Of 12 winners in the national junior tournament last year, “six of them were wearing our brand,” he said.

Some of the most popular Athletic DNA items are the splashy Ignite and Eclipse shirts that feature “aggressive and edgy” designs, Zeder said.

“Our designs are much louder and more aggressive” than other tennis wear, he said. “The thought was to put an edge to a sport that never had one.”

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