Nike, IMG Win Big with Federer, Sharapova and Woods at US Open
by Sean Randall | September 11th, 2006, 11:55 pm

What a weekend for Nike and IMG (International Management Group). Nike/IMG clients Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer win US Open titles, and Tiger Woods gets major pub watching the Fed make it happen.

Interesting how the very first on-court question from Dick Enberg to Roger after his title was about Tiger sitting in the stands. Just a hunch, but I doubt the next time Tiger wins a golf Slam with Federer in attendance the first question to Woods isn’t going to be if having Roger watching added to the pressure. But I guess that’s the problem with tennis these days here in the U.S. Who’s watching can be just as if not more important than the event itself in our biz. ADHEREL

What was really amazing was reading that while the men’s final TV ratings fell 15% – no Andre Agassi so I get that – the women’s title bout featuring tennis queen Maria Sharapova only rose 3% from last year’s drab Kim Clijsters-Mary Pierce finale.

Three percent! Are you joking? That must be a numerical mistake. Pierce-Clijsters was an awful final match-up for the Open last year, while this Saturday’s Sharapova-Henin was probably the “dream.” And only a 3% difference? Obviously Maria is not the drawing card that Madison Avenue would have us believe.

Maybe it’s the grunting, maybe it’s her “ugly” game, maybe it’s her manufactured image or maybe it’s something else – Yuri cheating? Who knows, but I’ll be anxious to hear the WTA spin.

Who would have believed a month ago Roddick would finish the US Open at ranked No. 3 in the ATP Race? Just about everyone would have bet the house on that NOT happening, myself included. But it is fun to have Andy and his intensified antics back in full force. And remember detractors, he’s got few in the way of points to defend between now and next summer so he’ll only be making up ground on Roger and Rafa (in points that is).

What I love about Roger, though, is when he goes deep into the ad side corner of the court on the backhand side to retrieve a ball. Just watch how he takes what seems to be a thousand baby steps, then he bends his knees and flicks that backhand with appropriate follow-thru including the continuation of the baby steps. That’s how ya do it. Baby steps…remember that.

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18 Comments for Nike, IMG Win Big with Federer, Sharapova and Woods at US Open

Linda Says:

The way they are shoving maria down our throats is a big, big, turn off. And the worse part about it is that the girl is not all that attractive. I have seen more attrative players on the WTA these days and maria sure is not one of them. Note to the commentators….SHE IS NOT AMERICAN. Each time these commentators and media open their mouths it’s an insult toss towards V&S. Maria won one GS and everything was thrown at her feet. V&S had to win between 4 and 5 to get half of what she has gotten and they are Americans. Oh, and let’s not talk about the easy draws the WTA keeps feeding her. Is there any wonder why anyone watched the match.

Pete Says:

Short of a naked women’s final the ratings were doomed from the start. The ratings were effected more by the fact that the final was going directly against not only the Ohio State – Texas game (which is the first time that the first and second ranked teams faced each other during the regular season in 11 years) but the final NASCAR race of the season before the beginning of the chase. Other than the hardcore tennis fan, NBC was going to get a low percentage of casual sports fans, who would have tuned in if they didn’t have a handful of other options.

Gordon Says:

Never confuse celebrity with athletics. Or celebrity with any craft for that matter. No one was surprised when the Dukes of Hazzard movie tanked, even though it starred Jessica Simpson, who you can not avoid seeing no matter where you turn. Tabloid fascination does not translate to eyeballs on screens, either in the theatres or at the US Open final.

Hardcore tennis fans turn in to the finals, no matter who is playing. As for casual viewers? They are probably few and far between.

And I agree with Linda – there are more attractive women on the tour. Never underestimate the power of marketing.

You have to love the NIKE “I feel Pretty” ad though. Clever stuff, that!

Lib Says:

Yes, I thought one of the best moments in the whole event was when someone in the crowd shouted out “I feel pretty!” during the Sharapova match. It made me laugh, even if it WAS someone from her promotional team (and we’ll never know). The ad is brilliant. I also loved the Lexus ads with Andy in the car with all the older NY fellas. Very well done.

Jason Says:

Wow. Linda’s post represents nearly everything that is wrong with tennis in this country. I’m a big Sharapova fan but I begrudge nobody for not liking her, to each their own, that’s the best part of tennis, many players and personalities to choose from. But, the suggestion that only American tennis players are worthy of admiration and/or discussion is sickening to me. What does that say about us, as a society, that Roger Federer isn’t American so we shouldn’t care??? And, what planet is Linda living on? Venus and Serena didn’t get any attention from the media until Venus won her fourth slam (01 US Open)?!? What? Those two gals have been shoved down our throats ever since November of 1994 when Venus took a set off Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in Oakland, CA. With all due respect, the suggestion that V&S were under the radar for most of their careers is the stupidest thing I have ever read. That is until the ridiculous charge of draw fixing. That is just so stupid that I honestly don’t know how to respond to it. One thing that I don’t think all of the Maria haters understand is that the tennis media, for the most part, can’t stand Maria. Nearly every article written about her is judgmental and harsh (way too harsh IMHO). Yes, she gets many endorsements, but what is she supposed to do? Turn down millions of dollars? Funny, I don’t recall anybody ever complaining about Michael Jordan and his endless endorsements.

Don Says:

Thank you Jason for your comment. You are absolutely correct. Linda, the points you are trying to make are absolutely ridiculous and incredibly stupid on the same time. While I really do like S&V and thought that they deserved their credit when they were playing well nobody can say they were/were not getting the attention they deserve. Plus draw fixing?! Come on. How come stuff like that is always just said about players who are not from the US. Why not just accept that the those Russian girls that are currently dominating are just more talented and/or have been working harder than any of the US women. On the men’s side too, the dominant players right now are simply from Europe and they deserve to be exactly where they are. Federer and Nadal are absolutely incredible and Federer is doing right now is history in the making: On a scale as big as people like Jordan, Woods, Gretzky, or Pele. Just enjoy it.

Tess Says:

I agree with Jason and Don, and the marketers for that matter. The truth is that Maria is a stellar combination of talent and physical attributes. While she might not be at the zenith in either, she’s certainly way above average in both. Plus, her English is great, so she appeals to Americans! She is, in essence, a marketer’s dream come true.

We all wish V&S would return to the level of competition they had earlier this century; however, they’re out of their depth at the moment. Nothing would be better though than to see them stage a comeback Agassi-style, in terms of both talent and humility!

maureen Says:

Maria is not a bad looking young lady but the cheating by her camp at the Us Open is something else.What was in that bottle that her took out of her bag and drank.This is the story from her match with Tatiana Golovin.The Banana and hand signals leaves a lot to be desired.Her camp was indeed giving her signals that were pre- arranged.It would have been nice if she had been honest with the reporters because now a lot of people feel she has something to hide,Yes she won the Open but was it without cheating? She is a good player but the Wta should indeed stop feeding her those cupcakes draws.

Alistair W Says:

Dick Enberg’s first question to Roger Federer, about Tiger Woods, isn’t part of some Nike plot. It’s simply because Dick Enberg is an idiot.
As for Maria Sharapova, I don’t comprehend the venom directed at her. I don’t like the grunting either, but I know contrived rationales when I see them. Being coached from the sidelines? Wow, banish her for life already.
I’d have thought if you love tennis you’d be much more disturbed by the phoney rabble-rousing of Andy Roddick (as instructed by Jimmy Conners?). Or by the crowd’s cheering of non-Americans’ fault first serves. Or has the Conners ethic already triumphed? Bully and cheat your way to titles — All the home masses will care about is THAT you won.

JDC Says:

I don’t think that Lynn’s Maria-American comment meant to imply anything about Maria’s media attention and its relation to her nationality. Instead, I believe that Lynn is tired of hearing the commentators incorrectly call Maria an American or a Russian-American … b/c it is an insult to Maria, who clearly states that she is Russian.

In essence, the media is trying to adopt her as American. I agree with Lynn (if this is indeed what she meant), it is very annoying to constantly listen to this unauthorized adoption. So, it is the media (not Lynn) who is implying that only American players are worthy of attention/coverage … otherwise, the media would not continue to push the “Maria is American” angle.

Linda Says:

If you notice the commentators never refer to V&S as Americans they always refer to them as the sisters and would refer to Linsday as American. I am sorry but there’s no excuse for that. Now, they are trying to adopt Maria as American and even go as far as calling her American. It annoys her to be call American but it does not annoy her when she accepts the million $ endorsements she gets from AMERICA.

Jason Says:

I agree with some of what Linda said, people in the tennis world are trying to get her to switch nationalities like Martina Navratilova. However Maria is not about to turn down endorsements from American companies just because she doesnt have an American passport. As for Venus and Serena the question is where are they now? Venus is injured, Serena can barely move across the court and Sharapova is playing the best tennis of her career. I say she wins.

Jason Says:

There are people saying that Maria Sharapova is being given easy draws by the WTA. The WTA does not decide who she plays in the opening rounds of Grand Slams that is up to the people who are running the particular Slam.

dom Says:

Anyone says only americans deserve big endorsement contracts is an idiot. And anyone who says only americans should win the US open is a biger idiot.

Smith Says:

Sorry to burst your bubble, but CBS was actually quite happy with the ratings of the women’s final. If Maria hadn’t been in the finals, the ratings would have been in the low 2’s like the Henin-Hardenne/Clijsters and Kuznetsova/Dementieva finals.

Secondly, Saturday night is known as a “dead” night for TV. That’s the night that the fewest number of people are home or if they are watching TV they have rented movies or are watching college football. Belive me, CBS is not sad at all that they “only” got a 3.2. A 3.2 on a Saturday night is considered very good.

We can swing this the other way as well. If it hadn’t been Andy (or any American man) in the finals, the men’s rating would have been even lower than what it was. When Federer beat Hewitt in 2004, the match barely scored in the 2’s. The Fed-Nadal Slam finals this year got a 1.1 (French Open) and a 3.2 (Wimbledon) this year. If it had been Youzhny in the final, the men’s final would have gotten ratings closer to the dismal Fed-Hewitt numbers.

Back to Maria – yes her grunting can be annoying, but some people are acting as if she’s the worst person in the world. The hatred directed at this 19-year old girl is startling and quite scary.

As for her endorsements, obviously what she advertises sells, because she wouldn’t keep getting endorsements if the products she endorsed weren’t selling. I know people who are in the advertising business and they don’t keep people under contract or add someone as a spokesperson unless they sell product.

To Maria haters: Did you get this angry when Kournikova got all those endoresment dollars despite the fact that she never won a singles title? Do you get mad that Tiger Woods makes over $75 million in endorsements? How about Peyton Manning who is on my TV in commercial after commercial despite the fact that he’s never even come close to winning a Super Bowl? Do these people merit your scorn or is it only Maria that you hate to see get endorsement deals?

I hope Maria keeps winning just for the sheer joy of reading the comments of her haters who throw temper tantrums whenever she wins.

Smith Says:


I just want to add that I love Federer and Nadal and most of my faves are non-American players. However, the CASUAL American fan (to their disservice) will only watch when there are Americans in the finals.That’s why I brought up the ratings issue with Fed-Hewitt and Fed-Nadal. Us hard-core people will watch anyone no matter who’s playing and love every minute of it.

Maria is bashed simply because her numbers weren’t “higher” when the (sad) fact is that the numbers for other men’s finals and women’s finals aren’t very high either when there are no Americans involved.

It is pathetic when people say that only Americans should win the U.S. Open. The best player is the one who should be holding that trophy, no matter what their nationality is. I wish more people would appreciate what players like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, and other non-American players are bringing to the game.

Victor Says:

I love seeing Maria in the finals.

Especially if she’s wearing hardly anything.

Brian Says:

I totally get Linda with regards to the Americanness of Maria, Venus and Serena. Maria looks and acts so much like the spoiled prom queen from all those teen comedies, we all love to hate. And it’s almost as if the commentators are trying to make Maria into something American, while at the same time displaying discomfort when it comes to V+S. Except for good old Pam Shriver of course, the pundits of American tennis always seem a bit … let’s say ill at ease when it comes to praising or discussing V&S. Bear in mind the dismal behaviour by the public at Indian Wells not so long ago when Serena played Clijsters. Even Clijsters was shocked by the undiluted hatred and lets not beat around that ole bush, racism’, that was displayed by the audience there.
So yeah, I totally get Linda.
And of course I am not saying that Maria IS an UNDESERVING prom queen, she prolly works very hard, I’m just saying she might be perceived as one. And the endearing thing about Kournikova was exactly that she DID NOT win anything. The old feeling of you can’t have it all.
In general, people don’t identify with others who have beauty, succes, and embarrassing amounts of money, and who keep flaunting as Maria does. Roger is the best but he has this ugly girlfriend who he can’t get rid off since she’s his manager, V&S have that black thing working against them in terms of popularity and Lindsay was rather plain?
But Maria …. seems to have it all and she is showing it, extra, with sprinkles on top.

But her fellow Russians think she’s American too.

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