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Volume 22 No. 35
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Plugged In: John Tobias

Sloane Stephens, who was injured for 11 months before making a stunning summer comeback capped by the U.S. Open title, wasn’t the only one with a great story: Her agent John Tobias also had his own comeback. Tobias, 40, was fired in October 2015 from Lagardère, sparking an exodus of other agents and players, including Stephens. Tobias signed a non-compete that kept him from the business until Jan. 1 of this year, when TLA Worldwide, with no tennis representation expertise, hired him. Now thanks to Tobias, a former point guard at UC San Diego, TLA represents Open quarterfinalist Sam Querrey, Stephens and doubles team the Bryan Brothers.

The popularity of tennis in the U.S. is going to increase quite a bit due to this next generation of talent that is coming up.

On who Stephens compares to? As far as marketability she is as marketable as any client I have ever worked with, including Andy Roddick, including the Bryans and including the likes of Caroline Wozniacki. … Sloane, she has some unique characteristics on the court; obviously she is an amazing tennis player, but she is an amazing athlete, just physically gifted, probably one of the most — if not the most — physically gifted athletes on the tour right now. And then off the court she has got a smile that will light up the room, she is a really attractive young lady, obviously African-American, and being from a big market like the United States really bodes well for her from a marketing standpoint.

You also represent Genie Bouchard, who was once the up and comer in women’s tennis and now has fallen off. What is her marketability? I have never represented a player who is impacted less by results, whose business is impacted less by results. I am sure at some point there will be a fall-off if she doesn’t come back and reassert herself as one of the top players, but right now her business is not all that negatively impacted because she is from a large market in Canada that does not have a whole lot of female ambassadors. … We just renewed with Rogers, we just renewed with Coke. Those are big brands.

In your time away, Stephens was with WME-IMG; why did she make a switch again? We didn’t really talk about one company versus the other, I think it was just like a comfort level. I started working with Sloane (who is 24) when she was 16, 17 years old. So, I had the edge on IMG in the sense that I had worked with her and her family for a long time already and we had a good, close personal friendship and professional relationship. I don’t think it was anything IMG did or did not do, I think it was more a matter I was back being able to represent talent and I had a previous relationship with Sloane and we decided to give it another try.

Did you expect to represent a Slam winner in your first year back? To be very honest, no. I knew that I was fortunate enough to have a few clients who might have the opportunity to have a successful year, but I did not honestly believe in year one I would have a client win a Grand Slam.

— Daniel Kaplan