By Alexandra Willis
16 September 2010
Rafael Nadal is set to surpass Roger Federer as the top-earning tennis player after becoming the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam since tennis turned professional in 1968. The Spaniard, who defeated Novak Djokovic in a bruising rain-delayed encounter to lift the US Open trophy for the first time, is so popular among young fans that industry experts estimate the Nadal brand could climb to new heights in the professional game.
Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports business marketing at the Coventry University Business School told Bloomberg that Nadal’s US Open exploits could add $20 million to the Spaniard’s annual earnings, boosting them from $21 million to $41 million. The increase would see him leapfrog Russian star Maria Sharapova, who brings in approximately $24.5 million per year, and put him within reach of Federer. The Swiss star, who has won 16 Grand Slams at the age of 29, is estimated to be worth $43 million a year.
It will be another blow to the Swiss, who has already handed over the world No.1 ranking, the French Open and Wimbledon to his rival this year, if Nadal can mount an assult on his status as the most marketable tennis player. IMG, who have reportedly taken care of the Spaniard’s interests since he was an 11-year-old pup, told Bloomberg there is room for “one or two more sponsors” in the Spaniard’s arsenal, and that “targeting the US” will be a priority.
“He is an amazing ambassador for any brand,” said Barcelona-based Fernando Soler, head of the tennis division at the marketing giant. “I think it is our obligation now to target the US market and deliver, for him.” Currently, Nike Inc and Inter Parfums Inc, owner of Lanvin men’s perfumes, are Nadal’s only US-based backers.
Although the multi-lingual Federer, who plays off the suave and sophisticated image Nike have created for him, is currently the more recognizable name among tennis fans, experts believe that Nadal’s likeable personality, and younger age, will result in him developing a broader appeal over the next year. Whether that appeal is converted into cash in the bank remains to be seen.
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