By Romana Cvitkovic
Novak Djokovic’s latest venture includes an “amicable” split with clothing sponsor Sergio Tacchini and a new deal with Japanese brand UNIQLO which will be made official in Paris on Wednesday. Chatter surrounding the decline of the Serbia Open tennis tournament is also surfacing as tournament director Goran Djokovic is set to resign, also putting up the sale of the tournament license starting in 2013. Get the full scoop below.
Novak Djokovic splits with Sergio Tacchini, signs with UNIQLO
Novak Djokovic signed a 10-year deal with clothing brand Sergio Tacchini in November 2009, but as announced today by Danielle Rossingh of Bloomberg News, the two have decided to part ways early as Djokovic has “outgrown” the brand. At the time of signing, Djokovic had reached world number four and had only one slam under his belt. Since then, he has climbed to number one and won four more slams, and gone on one of the most remarkable winning runs in sport landing him in TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012.
A spokesperson for Tacchini released the following statement: “It has been mutually and amicably decided that, as of the 2012 Roland Garros Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic will no longer be the brand ambassador.” It is reported that an announcement will be made on Wednesday in Paris to disclose a new sponsorship deal between Djokovic and Japanese clothing company UNIQLO, for which their current ambassador is tennis player Kei Nishikori.
In 2010, Djokovic won only two tournaments which was in stark contrast to his ten titles the following year. Signing a European player as an ambassador for a company recovering from bankruptcy was a gamble, but it initially paid off with a boost in sales. However, Djokovic’s success in 2011 seemed to have taken Tacchini by surprise — both because of bonus tournament payouts and because of manufacturing struggles to keep up with demand.
Under the terms of the original deal, Djokovic was to receive “incentive bonuses linked to tournament wins and end-of-year rankings, … a share of all Tacchini revenue from sales in China, and [a share of] worldwide revenue from Djokovic-branded Tacchini products.”
Things seemed to be looking up back in July of 2011 when after his Wimbledon victory, Djokovic traveled with the owner of Sergio Tacchini, Billy Ngok, and U.S. billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, to Serbia to discuss plans for investment, including a Tacchini plant, in the Niš area. Unfortunately, that trip never developed into anything.
Djokovic’s latest tennis kit in Rome last week was not a big hit with fans and now the answer is clear as to why. The week before in Madrid, he still wore the spring kit and it seems more than likely that his kit in Rome was a strange interpretation of a Serbian flag more than anything else.
Serbia Open in jeopardy as tournament director resigns and tournament license up for sale in 2013
On the heels of Djokovic’s split with Sergio Tacchini, Serbian fans get bad news that the Serbia Open may be no more starting as early as next year. The Djokovic-family driven Serbia Open, an ATP Tour 250-level tournament in the capital of Belgrade, may soon cease to exist. According to Serbian newspaper Novosti, Novak’s uncle and director of the Serbia Open has not only submitted his resignation but also the sale of the tournament license starting in 2013.
The license cites that the dates of the tournament will stay as the first week of May, and as the tournament is currently sandwiched between Monte Carlo and Madrid, that significantly decreases the list of possible buyouts of the rights to the tournament. Several cities are in proposed talks to buy the rights with Spanish cities at the top of the list including Seville, Marbella and even Palma de Mallorca.
After it’s inaugural tournament in 2009 which was won by Djokovic, the tournament stayed mostly relevant as the top Serbs and Croats played, bringing the locals out. 2011 held it’s strongest field ever as the top eight seeds were ranked 37th in the world or better, including three Serbs. However, after the pullout of Djokovic this year due to the passing of his grandfather and the failing of any top Serbs to show up and even play, the tournament experienced a major setback. While the initial weekend of the tournament proved successful as several Serbs played qualifying and two were granted wildcards in the main draw, much of the rest of the tournament lacked luster, fan interest low and international media scarce.
For what is quickly turning into a tennis-loving nation, Serbia may very well be without any tour-level tournament again next year. The inevitable is here and the Serbia Open may soon cease to exist.