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
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