Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Mallorcan Matador has clinched the season-ending No. 1 ranking for the second time in his career according to the ATP World Tour after winning his first US Open title and completing the Career Slam over the weekend. He also owns this year's Roland Garros and Wimbledon championships and earned three consecutive Masters 1000 Series titles at Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.
"It has been an incredible season - one of my best ever, if not the best," he said in a statement. "Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back (ATP World Tour) Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy. I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1."
No kidding. And, as if that awesome news weren't enough an article out today by Bloomberg.com tips the 24-year old to surpass Roger Federer in endorsements by virtue of his achievements so far this year. In August, Fed topped Forbes magazine's list of tennis' top earners with an estimated $43 million in yearly earnings (includes prize money, endorsements, appearance fees, etc.) followed by Maria Sharapova with $24.5 million and Rafa in third place with $21 million (third place never looked so nice, eh?)
"Again he proved to everybody that he has no limits,” said Fernando Soler, head of the tennis division at IMG. “He is an amazing ambassador for any brand, and I think that it is our obligation now to target the U.S. market and deliver, for him.”
There's so much more Rafa could be doing in the US market, but I think it'll take a little longer for him not because of his current grasp of the English language (though, like his game, it has improved dramatically over the years) but mostly because of his own desire to find the right balance between tennis, off-court demands and his personal life. I don't think he's interested or could necessarily handle the exposure and demand on his time that too many of these activities would require the way Fed has over the years. They're different breeds. He may opt for less opportunities so he can have more time at home in Mallorca with family and friends, a stated priority for him.
But, that being said, there's still a lot of room for Rafa to grow his 'brand' here even with any set limitations, and certainly with the win at Flushing Meadows the demand is there. And growing.
[Photos: Getty Images]