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Volume 21 No. 2

Events and Attractions

Rumors swirled last week that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic would be making an apparel and sneaker change, but Edoardo Artaldi said his company, Sergio Tacchini, has Djokovic under contract for 15 years.

If his playing career ends before the deal is up, Djokovic will continue to represent the brand with an ambassador status.

“He’s 100 percent with Tacchini,” said Artaldi, who manages contracts for the Italian brand. It is the first time Tacchini has come public with the duration of the contract since signing Djokovic in late 2009. Since then, Djokovic has become the best player in the world, and as of last week he had lost only twice this year.

Artaldi also dispelled talk that Djokovic had not been paid by his company, which is owned by Chinese investors.
Tacchini was a popular tennis brand in the 1980s and is in the midst of a comeback attempt. Djokovic previously had been with Adidas.

While Djokovic wears Adidas sneakers — Tacchini currently does not make tennis footwear — Adidas is prohibited from using Djokovic’s image, Artaldi said. He added that many sneaker brands have inquired about Djokovic’s availability, including Chinese and Japanese brands.

Djokovic is represented by CAA Sports. Earlier this year, the two CAA agents responsible for the Serbian player were removed from working with him, and no one since has been specifically assigned him, Artaldi said. Tennis at CAA is now under Steve Heumann, Artaldi said, and the plan is to have a new team for Djokovic by the end of the year. Goran Djokovic, Novak’s uncle who handles his nephew’s business affairs, did not respond for comment.

WHAT THEY’RE WEARING: Speaking of apparel brands, Agnieszka Radwanska, the world’s No. 13-ranked player, signed a deal here with Lotto. The deal pays about $200,000 annually. In addition, Lacoste has launched an Andy Roddick brand, the first time the American has had his own line. The shirts, shorts and jackets feature an “Andy” signature beside a white stitched figure of him serving, located on the lower right-hand side of the apparel. And look for American John Isner to score a nice payday not long from now, with his apparel deal with Nike coming up soon.

Thousands of fans had their serves analyzed, thanks to American Express.
ACTIVE EXPERIENCE: American Express had its most ambitious on-site experiential effort at the U.S. Open this year. The company hired GolfTec to modify its golf swing technology, which analyzes a duffer’s swing, to tennis. GolfTec worked with tennis coach Craig Kardon to develop the motion sensory devices, which were used for the first time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Thousands of fans had their serves analyzed. Card members could get a 10-minute serve lesson on-site, while non-card members could serve and have the hits analyzed at other locations and then tips emailed to them.

AmEx also unveiled its Court Curator, which allowed fans to customize their trips to the Open. Fans could choose from advice like following top pros or newcomers, or even choosing Chris Evert’s daily advice of what to see. The Curator was featured at eight locations around the grounds of the tennis center. AmEx advertised the new offering on the U.S. Open’s mobile app as well as on the boardwalk that leads to the tennis center from the subway.

SHARAPOVA SWEETS: Maria Sharapova is planning to launch a brand of candies called Sugarpova. Confectioner Jeff Rubin, known for such brands as FAO Schweetz and Dylan’s Candy Bar, is licensing the name. Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, during the Open was carrying around prototypes of the containers — which look like tennis ball canisters — filled with sugary delights.

NEW SPOTLIGHT ON ASIA?: Lagardère Unlimited signed Asia Muhammed, 20, to a representation deal. Muhammed several years ago was pegged as an up-and-comer and was well known for first starting to play at the Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club funded by Andre Agassi. She has somewhat fallen off the radar and is now ranked 407th.

Lagardère’s Ken Meyerson pointed out that her brother, Shabazz, is a top-ranked high school basketball player, but he said the signing was about Asia’s tennis potential.

In 2008, the U.S. Tennis Association’s then-head of professional tennis, Arlen Kantarian, strode through the U.S. Open media room and stopped to boldly pronounce that a roof over the main stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center “is a question of when and not if.”

“We believe this tournament,” Kantarian continued, “has reached the point where we are looking seriously at putting a roof on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.”

Rain played havoc with the U.S. Open’s schedule for the fourth straight year.
Plans soon after were presented to the USTA board of directors. Those plans included financing options for a roof, including the use of personal seat licenses and redoing the lease between the USTA and New York City, which owns the tennis center, sources said. But within months of Kantarian’s bold proclamation, the tide began to turn within the boardroom, and today, the idea of a roof for the U.S. Open is dismissed outright.

“A roof on Arthur Ashe is technologically a challenge and financially cost-prohibitive,” U.S. Open tournament director Jim Curley told

reporters last week during one of the sessions wiped out by rain.

For the fourth straight year, rain wreaked havoc with the Open’s schedule. Star players blasted the USTA for its rain policies, arguing that the tennis group was pushing to play in unsafe conditions (see box).

So what happened to that roof, which once seemed inevitable? According to sources, new members on the board and in the executive ranks decided in 2009 that the cost was too high and that money should instead be spent on pushing grassroots tennis more aggressively. Indeed, the signature initiative this year of the USTA under Executive Director Gordon Smith has been 10-and-under tennis. Smith assumed his post in 2008.

The idea of using PSLs to fund the roof construction — a project priced from $100 million to more than $200 million — might have significantly limited the USTA’s financial contribution, depending on the sales outcome. Wimbledon since 1921 has used debentures — essentially short-term PSLs — to fund capital projects, and more than $1 billion of projects, including its Centre Court roof, has been funded in this manner.

The USTA’s current major capital project is a $300 million renovation of the tennis center that involves tearing down and replacing the second court, Louis Armstrong Stadium, but the new venue will not have a roof either. Smith has said repeatedly that it is the mission of the USTA to promote tennis and that a few rainouts at the Open should not mean pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from that goal.

One board member, when asked about the fact that the three other Grand Slam tournament sites would all have roofs over their main courts by 2014, responded that the groups that owned those events have different missions.