In a strange scene, world no 1 Simona Halep wore a visor with the Australian Open logo on it for her semi-final against Angelique Kerber. It was something sold at the gift shop at Melbourne Park, a souvenir for spectators.
It is not a scene seen often in pro-tennis, especially at the Grand Slam level. All top players are usually kitted out by their official sponsors from head to toe. But the women’s world No 1 has been playing without an apparel sponsor in her first two tournaments of the year. That’s right, no sports brand has signed the top-ranked player after previous contract ended in 2017.
She had been with Adidas for the last four years, but that contract ran out at the start of 2018. She posted a message on Twitter saying goodbye to Adidas, but made no mention of her new sponsor.
The point comes into even more focus now that she has reached the final of the Australian Open, continuing her unbeaten run this year. She won both the singles and doubles titles at the Shenzhen Open earlier this year, wearing the red dress that she got for herself.
Tennis.Life had reported that the 26-year-old Romanian won’t have a clothing sponsor for 2018 in mid-December, citing failed negotiations with Adidas and other brands.
The report said that Halep’s representatives had a certain number in mind for the contract as the player had become world no 1, but Adidas’s offer didn’t match up.
However, when Halep’s team reportedly could not get a better offer from any other company and when they returned to Adidas, their 2018 sponsorship budget was already allocated.
Some of the current women players on Adidas’s roster are fellow finalist Caroline Wozniacki, Kerber, and Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko.
Another report by the Women’s tennis blog quoted Romanian media saying that she was due to sign a four-year contract with Nike after playing her first tournament without a sponsor. The Nike agreement was supposed to be $1.7 million a year, about $700,000 more than Adidas.
However, it has clearly not panned out as yet and Halep will play the final of the first Grand Slam without a sponsor. Maybe she will get one soon after the final, but the absence of one hasn’t gone unnoticed on Twitter, with Adidas drawing a lot of flak.