When Roger Federer opened play on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Monday, to begin his assault on a record-extending ninth title at the All England Club, he sent shockwaves across the tennis universe as he stepped on the grass dressed in a Uniqlo kit.
An institution at Nike for over two decades, Federer’s contract with the American activewear giants ended last month and rumours had been circulating regarding a monster $300 million 10-year deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo.
The Swiss had been practicing in different kits at Wimbledon last week, from a Laver Cup t-shirt, to an RF-branded cap, and he showed up in a blazer to his pre-event press conference on Sunday.
But the cat was officially out of the bag on Monday when he revealed his Uniqlo all-whites for his opener against Dusan Lajovic.
What will happen to the RF logo? Will he get paid even if he’s not playing? What shoes will he be wearing? Those and many more questions were being circulated, not just in the Wimbledon press room, but all over social media.
Even though the new deal was expected, it was still jarring to see Federer wearing a non-Nike outfit and it will take some getting used to, particularly by his fans, who are typically dressed in RF-gear from head to toe.
“The RF logo is with Nike at the moment, but will come soon to me at some point. I hope sooner rather than later… It will come with me at some point, they are my initials. The good thing is it’s not theirs forever,” said Federer after his straight-sets win over Dusan Lajovic at Wimbledon on Monday.
“Uniqlo, the Japanese global apparel retailer, announces today a partnership with Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of all-time and one of the world’s most influential and universally admired people, as its newest Global Brand Ambassador,” read a press release from the Japanese brand.
Commenting on the announcement, Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo founder and chairman, president and CEO of fast retailing, said: “Mr. Federer is one of the greatest champions in history; my respect for him goes beyond sport. Our partnership will be about innovation on and off court. We share a goal of making positive change in the world, and I hope together we can bring the highest quality of life to the greatest number of people. Uniqlo will help Mr. Federer continue taking tennis to new places, while exploring innovations in a number of areas including technology and design with him.”
Federer said: “I am deeply committed to tennis and to winning championships. But like Uniqlo, I also have great love for life, culture and humanity. We share a strong passion to have a positive impact on the world around us and look forward to combining our creative endeavours.”
ESPN reports that there is “an unprecedented clause that says that Federer will still collect the money even if he doesn’t play”.
“Nike, sources said, offered to expand Federer’s line through his “RF” logo, which Nike has owned the trademark of since 2010.”
Federer’s Nike deal is done but have been told by industry source that the RF logo will revert to Federer at some stage in the next few years. Am told they do not own the rights to it in perpetuity so it may well rise again
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) July 2, 2018
It’s hard to believe there are records Roger Federer has not broken yet but there is one player who has won more singles titles than the Swiss at Wimbledon – Martina Navratilova.
Rafael Nadal will be looking to add a third Wimbledon title to his trophy cabinet and triumph at the All England Club for the first time since 2010.
Marin Cilic is seeded No. 3 and will be looking to become the first Croatian man to win here since 2001, while fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro is bidding for a second Grand Slam and first since 2009.
Grigor Dimitrov is searching for a maiden major trophy but has a tough opener against three-time Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.
Andy Murray has pulled out of the tournament and home hopes will fall on British No. 1 Kyle Edmund.
Here are 10 stats to know about the men’s draw at Wimbledon ahead of the action that kicks off on Monday.
1 – Rafael Nadal will retain the No. 1 ranking after Wimbledon if he reaches the fourth round this fortnight. Federer will replace him as No. 1 if he defends the title and Nadal loses before the fourth round.
2 – Croatians have won the titles at the two largest grass-court warm-up events so far this year – Marin Cilic at Queens and Borna Coric in Halle. The last Crotian man to win Wimbledon was Goran Ivanisevic in 2011.
4 – Novak Djokovic is bidding for a fourth Wimbledon crown which would move him into joint-sixth place on the all-time list of most Wimbledon titles won.
6 – Federer and Nadal have combined to win the last six consecutive Slams.
8 – men have successfully defended their Wimbledon title on a total of 18 occasions.
9 – Roger Federer is bidding to become the second player (after Martina Navratilova) – man or woman – in history to win nine singles titles at Wimbledon.
18 – Nadal is looking to claim an 18th Grand Slam and close in on Federer, who leads the all-time list with 20.
18 – Federer owns 18 grass-court titles, the most won in the Open Era.
21 – Federer is looking to clinch a 21st Grand Slam singles title and extend his all-time men’s record.
66 – Feliciano Lopez is appearing at his 66th consecutive Grand Slam and sets the record for the longest streak of Open Era Grand Slam singles appearances ahead of Federer, who played 65 straight majors between the 2000 Australian Open and the 2016 Australian Open).
Wimbledon begins on Monday with defending champion Roger Federer opening play on Centre Court against Dusan Lajovic, while seven-time winner Serena Williams commences her campaign against Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus on Court No. 2.
Women’s title holder Garbine Muguruza opens play on Centre Court on Tuesday against local wildcard Naomi Broady.
Here are 10 standout stats to look at from the Wimbledon women’s singles draw.
6 – teenagers are in this year’s women’s draw, Claire Liu (18), Marketa Vondrousova (19), Katie Swan (19), Sofia Kenin (19), Vera Lapko (19) and Anna Blinkova (19).
7 – Wimbledon singles titles Serena has won.
7 – In the Open Era, only seven women have won Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back. 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep will try to join that small group.
14 – Garbine Muguruza hasn’t lost a Grand Slam first round in any of her last 14 majors.
21 – players aged 30 or older are in the women’s main draw this fortnight.
24 – This Wimbledon, Serena is bidding to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles won. The American currently has 23.
24 – There have been 24 successful title defences at Wimbledon, most recently Serena winning in 2015 and 2016.
47 – Alize Cornet extends her consecutive Grand Slam appearance streak to 47 this Wimbledon, the eighth longest streak of consecutive appearances in a row.
87 – match wins for Venus Williams at Wimbledon against 15 losses, the third-most in the Open Era and most among active players.
319 – Grand Slam match wins Serena has accumulated throughout her career, the most in the Open Era.