When they finish the match and sit down to rest, big tennis stars put on a watch, before wiping the sweat from their faces and drink water. That is the rule, it follows from their contract with sponsors and the aces adhere to it, because they are top professionals who know what their obligations are, even in moments of the greatest physical and mental effort.
Until August last year, Novak Djokovic put Seiko on after the winning point, and then changed it to the Swiss Hublot, part of the luxury goods giant LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy), a company worth about 390 billion dollars. For a long time, the world’s first tennis player has been dressed by the French Lacoste, whose annual income is about 2.5 billion dollars, and his big sponsors are Peugeot, whose value on the stock exchange is about 25 billion dollars, and annual income is three times higher, as well as Raiffeisen Bank, market value of about ten billion euros.
Clearly, only the top names in the world of tennis are accompanied by top business partners and sponsors, and that is also the rule. We do not intend to speculate on the amount of contracts they have with Djokovic, but we should not doubt that their value is adequate to the promotion that these companies receive as “family members” of the best tennis player in the history of that sport. That is also the rule.
It is possible that Novak Djokovic and his team will have unpleasant conversations with their sponsors after the events in Australia. We are guessing that some of the sponsors may have calculated the increase in sales in their plans, calculating that Djokovic will certainly go far in Melbourne this year as well. But that projected profit will not be reached, because Novak will not even appear in the tournament. Maybe some of these huge companies will conclude that Djokovic’s legal case in which he lost, is becoming a reputational risk for them, that it is no longer good (profitable) to be with Djokovic. But, still, these are almost intimate matters between Djokovic and his partners, and it is distasteful to discuss them.
Therefore, we will stick to the rules and the respect of the rules. If it were not for that order, the world would not have seen one spectacular athlete and admired his talent, nor would people in Serbia have had the opportunity to say that one of them has become the best tennis player in history. This world of rules and their respect was set long before Novak Djokovic entered it. He entered it, accepted the rules of the game and respected them every minute of his career. He achieved great success with his talent and hard work, and he earned his well-deserved income by respecting those rules. Only he and the small number of “numbers ones” who have reached the peak in the sports they play can know how difficult it is.
The places where Novak plays also follow the same rules. They also have sponsors, donors and friends who give big money so that the best in the world can compete and show how good they are. The current tournament in Melbourne is the jubilee 20th, since its main sponsor is the South Korean auto giant KIA, whose value on the stock exchange is close to 30 billion dollars. The “love” between Roland-Garros and its sponsor, BNP Paribas, has been going on since 1973, and this main partner is now worth close to 100 billion dollars in the market. The New York tournament is dominated by the logo of JP Morgan, a sponsor whose market value is around 460 billion dollars.
All these hundreds of billions and hundreds more that we did not mention, are behind top tennis and top tennis players. Yes, they are here to become even bigger, to fertilize and grow on the popularity of tennis and the best players, but if it weren’t for them, the world wouldn’t know what kind of masters it has around it, it wouldn’t have heard of the greatest that existed, Novak Djokovic. If it weren’t for them, Novak and everyone else from the tennis caravan would only be enthusiasts from the block, whose skills are talked about in two or three streets and a couple of cafes.
Fortunately, and thanks to this very order of rules and their respect, it is not so. Fortunately, this is not the case in the NBA either; whose best player is also a man from Serbia, Nikola Jokic. This is not the case in the English Premier League, where the captain’s armband of one of the biggest clubs, Manchester United, was worn by Nemanja Vidic.
Djokovic was deported from Australia also because of the rules, although legal, not sports or sponsorship. At the moment when the doubt arose as to whether he respected them, Djokovic accepted to prove that he was right according to the (legal) rules, and that the Australian state was wrong. He appeared before a judge once, he won, the minister prevented him with a discretionary decision to be deported, he used a higher court instance as a rule that offers him a chance to win, and, unfortunately, he lost. If he had been in Serbia in the same situation, he would not have been able to get that far. He would be stopped by the decision of the competent minister, who would not have to explain his decision to anyone, not even to the court. To the first degree court, because the second degree court, unlike in Australia, would not exist.
The Odyssey in Melbourne is a new reality for Djokovic, the one he created for himself, trying to oppose the rules. The first contact with that reality is his infamous return from the tournament in Melbourne even before the tournament started. And the encounter (collision) with reality and the rules he took over through contracts with sponsors immediately followed. One of them, Lacoste, has already announced that they will discuss this with the face of the brand. The reality is that Djokovic’s participation in the remaining three Grand Slams is already in question, because the same rules for participating as in Melbourne will apply, that is, the one that Djokovic does not accept. For now.
Maybe he will change his attitude and accept the rules; there is enough time for that. The stakes are high, not only financially; it is primarily about sports, because Djokovic is missing only one victory in major tournaments to cement his reputation as the greatest in the history of tennis. But it is also possible that he will remain firm in his views that he had in Australia. The decision is only his, and the consequences will be his.
Whatever he decides, everything he showed the world within a system of clear rules, which he accepted and respected from his first professional day will remain undeniable. He and millions of his fans were happy all those years, because together they were participants and witnesses of the period in which the best tennis player in history played. If Djokovic decides that era is over, then it will only apply to him. Fans, sponsors, media will stay with tennis, just as it happened in Melbourne after Djokovic’s departure. Everyone is waiting and working together to see the new number one and the new best in history as soon as possible.