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July 6, 2018

Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

The details have not been confirmed in public --they never are --- but
Roger Federer's new contract with Japanese apparel maker Uniglo is
said to be worth $30 million per year for the next 10 years, for a total
contract value of $300 million.  In signing with Uniglo, Federer broke a
relationship with Nike that has spanned his entire career, during which
time he won 20 Grand Slam Championships.

Why did Roger do it?  Doesn't he have enough money already? These
are the questions some fans are asking, especially since the logo that
Nike designed for Roger, the ubiquitous "RF", has become synonymous
with the legendary player. Whenever Roger plays, you can see legions
of fans in their "RF" Nike caps and tee shirts.

Logos Count - Has Fed Make a Colossal Mistake?

Logos count. And Nike has reached a level of artistry and "fit" with the
RF logo that is rarely achieved in sport. The letter is suggestive and
deft, immediately bringing to mind Roger's exquisite touch with the
racket.  Fans have seized on the "RF" as the middle letters of "PERFECT"
which again fits in with the reality that Federer strives not just to win
but to achieve a perfection in his sport.

In the same way that the "air" logo fits Michael Jordan, the man who
conquered gravity with unbelievable hang time, Roger Federer's logo fit
the man and his iconic style.

Now, let's turn to the replacement logo. It's a large red rectangle that
seems to say "Uniglo".  Roger wears this large red square over his left
pecs. On his sleeve, there are two more red squares and on his pants,
there are two more red squares spelling out Uniglo. That's six red
Uniglo squares.  That's 5 too many.

What made Roger Federer a style icon is that he knew what style fit
him, elegant, less is more. Uniglo has gone over the top, plastering him
with red squares and the look makes him seem more like a billboard
than himself.  Elegance has left the room.

If He Didn't Need the Money, Why Did He Do It?

Nike's contract with Federer is reported to have been worth $10 million
per year and $150 million since he first signed the deal in 1994. Nike
has a history of signing its marquee stars for life, as they have done
with His Airness and with Tiger Woods. It's not farfetched to imagine
that they offered Roger the same.

So, why did Roger leave? Well, the answer is Father Time. Roger
Federer turns 37 years old next month in August. He is a father of 4.
Roger has taken great care of himself with the exception of a knee
accident incurred while bathing his children and a back sprain, he has
been relatively injury free.  But time waits fr no man. Roger will soon
be 40. There is no doubt that he will have lost several steps by then
and will not be in contention for majors. That's when he either will play
a reduced schedule or just hang it up.

In fact, this year, he is already playing a reduced schedule. For the first
time, Federer totally skipped the clay court season, a nod to his
advancing age and the limits of chat modern conditioning techniques
can do to help him recover in time for his Wimbledon title defense.

For whatever his reasons, the reality is that, this year, Roger Federer
stopped being a full-time tennis player. He is already in semi-retirement.

There is a large Rolex clock that marks the duration of matches on
center court at Wimbledon. That clock is ticking down on the career of
Roger Federer and the Uniglo deal is the best evidence yet that time is
running out.

This Uniglo deal is in fact Roger Federer's old age pension. It will make
it possible for him to avoid drawing down on his sizeable investment
holdings (reputed to be over $500 million) while enjoying an annual
check from Uniglo to cover his family's needs. $300 million? Not bad,
old guy.
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Federer doesn't seem to be himself in his
new kit.