But for David Beckham, Novak Djokovic would be a few millions dollars richer. But for Beckham, Djokovic would have stuffed more 100-euro bills into his racket bag.
It was in 2009, soon after Andy Murray had become Beckham’s stablemate at XIX Management, that it was announced that adidas had signed the Scot on a five-year contract worth an estimated 20 million dollars. That adidas already had a close relationship with XIX, through the clothing manufacturer’s sponsorship of Beckham, would undoubtedly have helped in securing the arrangement – Beckham’s influence extends into sports he doesn’t play. But for Beckham, Murray, and XIX, would adidas have stuck with Djokovic? So Murray’s face replaced Djokovic’s on the company’s tennis branding, with the discarded Serbian signing up to a 10-year deal with the Sergio Tacchini.
That sponsorship has been unravelling over the last year or so – in short, Djokovic was too successful for his clothing suppliers. A writer at CNBC reported this week that, “Tacchini was able to sign Djokovic by offering him a smaller guarantee than the larger companies would pay, but promised bigger should he do well. When Djokovic kept on winning, the company fell behind on payments to the tennis star.” And there were further difficulties, according to CNBC: “Some of the outfits it put Djokovic in weren’t popular in the United States, where the biggest market exists to sell high-end tennis gear. The biggest problem was distribution. Many of Djokovic’s grand slam outfits never even made it to the US, including the apparel he wore when he won last year’s US Open.”
The result was this week’s news – just days before the world No 1 begins his attempt to become the first man for 43 years to hold all four slams at the same time – that Djokovic and Tacchini had reached a mutual agreement to end their association. The company admitted that Djokovic had “outgrown the brand”. Djokovic won’t be shirtless in Paris, though, as he has entered a new sponsorship agreement with the Japanese company Uniqlo. It’s an interesting move, but you have to imagine that Uniqlo will not be paying Djokovic as much as adidas or Nike would have done.
So Kim Clijsters will retire (for a second time) after this year’s US Open. We already knew that this was going to be her last season, but now the Belgian has decided that she will play her last professional tennis in New York. Stranger things have happened in women’s tennis than Clijsters saying goodbye to the sport with her daughter Jada under one arm and a grand slam trophy under the other.