Dunlop in five-year ATP deal as Australian Open defends new balls
Dunlop has consolidated its status as a leading brand in men’s tennis by signing a five-year deal to become the official ball of the ATP Tour.
The UK sports equipment brand has signed up as a ‘silver partner’ of both the ATP Tour and the end-of-year Nitto ATP Finals through to the end of 2023.
Dunlop, which is now owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Rubber Industries, is already the most-used ball at ATP events, and last year became a gold partner of the Next Gen ATP Finals, the late-season tournament featuring the tour’s best players aged 21 and under.
Last July, it signed a five-year deal with Tennis Australia to become the official ball supplier of the Australian Open, the opening grand slam of the year, from 2019 onwards.
Dunlop joins an ATP sponsorship tier that also includes Tecnifibre, the French tennis equipment manufacturer, signed up until 2020.
The hierarchy is headed by premier partner Emirates, followed by platinum partners FedEx, Infosys and Peugeot and gold partner Rolex.
Chris Kermode, the executive chairman and president of the ATP, said today: “This new agreement is a testament to Dunlop’s continued commitment to the sport of tennis and we are excited to build a long-term partnership with such a world-renowned brand.”
Dunlop, which dates back to 1910, was acquired by SRI from Sports Direct, the UK sports retailer, in a deal worth $137.5 million at the end of 2016, and has since sought to re-establish itself as a global brand.
The Australian Open deal came into effect for the warm-up tournaments leading up to the grand slam in Melbourne starting next week, but there has been criticism of the new Dunlop balls from home player Bernard Tomic who described the switch from US brand Wilson as “terrible,” adding: “I don’t know too much [about the balls], but I don’t feel like it is that good a ball. I think they’re pretty cheap from what I’ve heard.”
TA chief executive Craig Tiley has today defended the company, saying there had been positive feedback from most players about the new balls.
He added: “They are great balls. They are made by one of the more reputable companies globally. Dunlop is one of the biggest, most widely distributed balls in the world.”
The Australian Open is the only grand slam using Dunlop balls, with Wilson remaining the official partner of the US Open, while Wimbledon has a long-running partnership with Sports Direct-owned Slazenger and the French Open is aligned with home brand Babolat.
• An eSports tournament based on the popular video game Fortnite is to be held alongside the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
The Fortnite Summer Smash Solos offers a total of A$500,000 ($358,000) in prize money and is open to the first 500 people over the age of 16 (from Australia and New Zealand only) who applied from today onwards.
The qualifying events will be held prior to the women’s singles final on 26 January, with the finals to follow, ahead of the men’s singles final, a day later.
The event is being organised by Tennis Australia in partnership with Fortnite developer Epic Games and eSports promoter ESL. Tickets are being sold separately from the tennis and start at A$49.95 for adults and A$5 for children