Eugenie In A Bottle

We finally landed the Yonex account last week.

My enduring Yonex memory of 2019 is Nick Kyrgios demolishing two of their Ezone 98s in the players’ tunnel at Cincinnati.

It’s difficult to quantify, but a fit of racquet smashing can offer valuable brand promotion, as cameramen have a habit of seeking extreme close-ups of mangled racquet frames.

Alexander Zverev unleashed a burst of corporal punishment on the surface of Rod Laver Arena in his Round of 16 loss at this year’s Australian Open. Eight lashes in total. By the end of the punishment, I was acutely aware that Zverev’s brand of choice was Head.

It’s a beautiful thing that Head now have Zverev spruiking their new Gravity series, with its duel-sided hot/cold beam design. If ever there was a player who can pass through the teal tranquillity of dominance and the fiery red rage of frustration in a single match, it is ‘Sasha’ Zverev.


Rumoured to be the only two Gravity racquets in the Southern Hemisphere that Zverev hasn't smashed...yet!


Another beautiful thing, which I discussed two posts ago, is Dominic Thiem’s endorsement of the Babolat Pure Strike. Thiem has a squeaky clean image and a purity to his game that matches the white knight exterior of his racquet.

Thiem also plays a high volume of matches on tour, so offers great exposure for Babolat. Outside the ‘big three’, he’s as close to a sure thing as the modern men’s game will allow. Handsome young Instagram philosopher Stefanos Tsitsipas (Wilson Blade) is another seemingly safe bet.

One sponsorship deal that tickles my funny bone is the Dunlop Srixon CX series, which is endorsed by South African metronome, Kevin Anderson. This is a classic, no-frills control racquet, and who better to represent the brand than Kevin ‘no-frills’ Anderson?

Does any child ever look at Anderson’s face on a new racquet frame and think ‘I want to be like Kevin’? 

Does any grown-up outside South Africa ever tune in to one of Anderson’s matches and think ‘I need to put on an adult nappy, because I can’t bear to miss a single second of Kevin’s consistency’?

No, and no! But Anderson is the racquet, and the racquet is Anderson.


‘Anderson Embroiled in Methamphetamine Scandal’ is one headline you’re unlikely to ever read


Conversely, Sloane Stephens promotes the Head Radical line across her social media platforms. On any given week, in any given season, it’s almost impossible to know what on court exposure you’re going to get from a player like Stephens.

At her best, Stephens is a charismatic US Open champion (2017) and French Open finalist (2018). At her worst, she appears almost anchored to the centre of the court and can go on seemingly inexplicable losing steaks. 

Next time Stephens’ contract is up for renewal, Head’s only hope, aside from a heavy reliance on bonus clauses, is for a genie to pop out of a bottle and grant them superforecasting powers. 

When a genie (Bouchard) reached the Wimbledon final in 2014, after making the semis at the AO and the French, the endorsements started rolling in. By 2015, Bouchard was named by SportsPro as the World’s Most Marketable Athlete, ahead of the likes of Neymar, Lewis Hamilton and Usain Bolt.

In 2018, while watching the Wimbledon qualifiers (one of the most absorbing weeks on tour, incidentally), I was shocked to see Bouchard having to fight for her right to enter the main draw. 

Remarkably, for most of the 2018 season, Bouchard played without a racquet sponsorship deal, after Babolat failed to renew her contract at the end of 2017. 

Despite being 25 years old and supposedly in the prime of her athletic career, Bouchard’s current ranking is 220, which would’ve been inconceivable five years ago. 

Bouchard could've done a lot worse than trying a Volkl racquet. In its halcyon days, the German sports manufacturer had a number of high profile players on its books: John McEnroe, Michael Stich, Boris Becker and the vertical greyhound, Petr Korda.


Korda (pictured above), enjoys a contemplative moment after his Australian Open triumph in 1998


The challenge for a racquet salesman these days can be actually getting a Volkl stick into a customer’s hands, in the absence of a current top 30 player endorsement.

Never mind the quality of the product! How can you compete with Stefanos Tsitsipas’ striking cheekbones when all you have on your string bed is a logo that resembles a giant cockroach?

(I have little doubt that the Germans will send Zverev my way for the above paragraph) 

Racquet endorsements require a complicated rubric; not only an assessment of trajectory and character, but an assessment of an assessment of character, if that makes sense. 

Destruction–e.g. Naughty Nick, Simmering Sasha, Marat Safin erupting like Vesuvius (‘MISTER HEAD RACQUET, I KILL YOU DEAD!’)–might not necessarily be bad for business, while model citizens, like Kevin Anderson, might not necessarily help to move stock (or adult nappies). 

It’s a wonderful game both on–and off–the court, full of variables that no marketing team can ever predict. The game needs failed sponsorship deals as much as it needs successful ones. As Marlo Stanfield says in The Wire, ‘the game is the game.’


If you need any tennis equipment, or just fancy a chat about the game, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

December 14, 2019 — Murray

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