Several of tennis' top stars will be armed for assistance next week, toting red aid on Roland Garros' copper-colored clay.
Head Tennis has joined (RED) and the fight against AIDS with the launch of a Head (RED) special edition bag collection. Many of Head's top players—world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, and Sloane Stephens—will carry the limited-edition red bags at Roland Garros, partnering to raise both awareness and money for the cause. (Maria Sharapova, who has her own bag line, won't, but is taking part in the campaign.) Head announced 40 percent of the profits from each bag sold will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.
"I was made aware of it through Head tennis and I decided to pick up this fight with other players and try to help Red fight against AIDS," Simon told TENNIS.com in a telephone interview. "I feel it is a great idea and very important and nice initiative. We are just happy to help as much as we can. Tennis fans all over the world watch Roland Garros and I think this is why it is so important because so many people will see the bag. The bag is beautiful, it is going to help people and hopefully is a way to help people be aware that there is a fight here and we can all help in some way."
The new collection includes a tennis racquet bag and a backpack, which will be available at selected retail stores around the world starting at the end of the month. Both crimson-colored bags carry the unique (RED) branding. The Monstercombi racquet bag most players will carry at the French Open features compartments for 12 racquets, a front pocket, and detachable, adjustable, and hideable backpack straps. The backpack holds one racquet and offers an integrated shoe compartment and front zipper pocket.
A video promotion for the bag recalls a tennis version of the children's game "telephone", as each player places one personal item into the bag, then signs the bag before passing it on. Simon appears at 33-second mark of the video contributing his "favorite shirt" to the bag. Watching the players packing the bag provides some unintentional comic relief—Stephens' "Oh no!" moment at the 65-second mark, followed by a fist-pumping Andy Murray's premature celebration and Djokovic's closing kicks—all add a personal touch to a worthy cause. The bag used in the video and signed by all of the players will eventually be awarded to one fan through a lottery conducted via the Head Facebook page.
"It's a simple video with a very funny point: Everyone wanted to put something personal inside and seeing what every player decided to put into the bag and then how they have to remember all the other things already in, was funny," Simon said. "The great thing is one person will win the bag and everything in it. So I think the fans will want to fight to get this bag and the video is a funny way to talk about something that is a very serious fight and if this can help people then that is what we all want to achieve."
Tennis is billed as the sport for a lifetime, and recent life experiences have shaped Simon's view on the platform tennis provides to promote health and social causes. Simon's son, Timothé, will celebrate his third birthday on September 2. Simon said fatherhood has provided some perspective on life outside the lines.
"Of course, the first—and most important—thing when you have a baby is you want him to be healthy," Simon said. "You know the feeling you have when the baby [is delivered] and the doctor says it's healthy and okay? You feel you are very, very lucky and very happy. You appreciate the health and of course you want to help those are who are not lucky, who are not so healthy. I know as a tennis player I have a beautiful life. I always wanted to be a tennis player. I am living my dream and I feel very lucky my job is my passion. But I know many people are not so lucky so you feel you just want to help anyway we can. I hope this will help in some way."
(RED) was founded in 2006 by U2's Bono and Bobby Shriver to engage businesses and people in the fight against AIDS. Learn more at joinred.com.