Oz Open Gear Interest Grows

by: Richard Pagliaro | February 01, 2011

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201101180234092980158-p2@stats.com As American tennis fans reset their body clocks after a fortnight of late-night matches, the Australian Open continues to compel consumer interest days after the last shot was struck.

Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters collected the silverware and seven-figure checks for claiming Australian Open singles titles. Scratching beneath the surface of the draw sheets, did any clear gear winners emerge from the Melbourne major?
We asked some of the nation’s top tennis retailers how consumers responded to the results Down Under, and found that champions, contenders and even early-round casualties piqued purchaser interests.
The third-seeded Djokovic tossed his customized version of the Head YouTek IG Speed 18 x 20 racquet into the crowd after sweeping Andy Murray in straight sets in Sunday’s final. Consumers have been picking the Speed up for a demo test drive since seeing him dismantle three Top 6-ranked players—Tomas Berdych, defending champion Roger Federer and Murray—in straight-sets succession to earn his second career major.
“We’ve definitely seen a little bump in interest with Djokovic’s gear,” says Midwest Sports’ product manager Dave Limke. “The fact it was not a Federer-Nadal final meant people saw more of Djokovic and he’s an entertaining player. Head rolled out the new YouTek IG Speed frame, which is selling on its own merit. But when you have someone of Djokovic’s caliber play so well and win the title, it has created a lot of demo interest from people who want to play with that frame.”
Racquets resonate with fans even if they don’t make a final appearance.
“People have been demoing the Djokovic IG Speed frame so his performance generated interest,” says Woody Schneider, who owns Grand Central Racquet in New York City. “Everybody’s excited about the new Wilson BLX Blade series as well. People are demoing those frames and seem to be really impressed with its cosmetics.”
Though world No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s quest to capture four consecutive Grand Slam crowns was denied by compatriot David Ferrer, Rafa’s Babolat frame remains the top-ranked draw for some retailers.
“We always see a bump in business during the Aussie Open. This year we were busier than last and noticed a significant bump in racquet sales,” Tennis Warehouse’s Chris Edwards says. “Novak’s YouTek IG Speed 18 x 20 was popular, but Rafa still reigns supreme as his Babolat Aeropro Drive was much more popular with our customers.”
The women’s final was an all-Babolat affair between Kim Clijsters and Li Na, who both play with Babolat’s Pure Drive GT, a frame that sells in all seasons and did not see a significant sales spike after playing a starring role in the final.
“The Pure Drive is an annuity—it’s a steady seller all the time and we really didn’t see a whole lot of increase due to the women’s final,” Limke says. “With Kim Clijsters, there was more interest in the way of her Fila apparel based on the vintage Evonne Goolagong Fila outfit. We saw pretty good sales through a sort of perfect storm in the second week as Clijsters continued to win. Sometimes, the heritage apparel skews a little bit older, but in this case it attracted interest from all age groups. I’ve heard Fila will roll out some vintage Monica Seles-throwback apparel for Clijsters to wear later this year so it will be interesting to see how that does.”
Adidas boasted a men’s finalist in Murray and a women’s doubles champion in Flavia Pennetta, but it was former Aussie finalist Ana Ivanovic who appeared to nudge the needle in sales for some retailers.
“The biggest winner that I have seen from the Australian Open here at Holabird is adidas’ clothing,” says Sol Schwartz, Holabird Sports’ retail manager. “I have not seen a whole lot of reaction racquet- or string-wise. Ladies adizero tanks in the purplish color and the matching skirt have totally flown out the door.  The funny thing is, Ana Ivanovic is the main player wearing it, and she went out extremely early in the tournament.  Somehow people must have seen her in it.”
Apparel aficionados may have noticed Djokovic looking a little different in Melbourne. The dragon design that marked his U.S. Open Sergio Tacchini outfit was MIA, but his all-black ensemble with gray and orange accents, and the white, blue and red Tacchini outfit that he wore in the final has attracted attention.
“The dragon stuff did well for us—I’ve got a pair of the dragon shorts and people think I’m a mixed martial arts fighter when I wear them,” Limke says. “The Tacchini clothes Djokovic wore in Australia have a little broader appeal and we’ve see a little bump in sales on that line, though Tacchini could work on their delivery dates a bit more as we don’t have the clothes yet but put them online for back order and deliver once we receive the clothes.”

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