By Kien Lee
When we think of Rolex and the sport of tennis, we inevitably think of Roger Federer. The 39 year old Swiss has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in history for a male player, and had held the world No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record total of 310 weeks.
We also think of his success at Wimbledon, the sport’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, from winning the first of a record eight men’s singles titles in 2003, to capturing the eighth of those Wimbledon crowns in 2017 aged 35, five years after his last Grand Slam triumph.
Rolex and Wimbledon
Federer's skilful and elegant play underscores a stellar 21-year professional career, and the association with Rolex is reinforced with the Swiss manufacture having also established its role as Official Timekeeper at The Championships, Wimbledon, back in 1978 - a pioneering union that marked the start of the brand’s burgeoning partnership with the sport of tennis.
Rolex has been ever-present at Wimbledon over the last 40 over years, promoting excellence of tennis at the highest levels.
Timekeeper to All 4 Grand Slams & Major Tournaments
In 2019, Rolex became the official partner for all 4 Grand Slam tournaments in Tennis, representing the epitome of the sport, held across 3 continents.
Rolex and the Australian Open
Since 2008, Rolex has been associate sponsor and official timekeeper of the Australian Open.
In 2017, the brand announced it expanded and extend its sponsorship deal until 2027, which will then mark the 20th anniversary of the initial deal between the two.
Rolex and the US Open
In 2018, Rolex began its presence at the US Open, coinciding with the tournament's 50th anniversary.
With the roar of passenger planes overhead, with the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center located near the JFK international airport, the clocks in the venue as well as the centrepiece on the Arthur Ashe Stadium now tick with Rolex precision.
Rolex and the French Open
2019 marked the inauguration of Rolex relationship with Roland-Garros, coming onboard as Premium Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch.
The prestigious French Open dates back to 1891 and has been held at the Parisian venue since 1928, the only Grand Slam held on clay.
Rolex and the NITTO ATP Finals
In addition, Rolex is a partner of the NITTO ATP Finals, the second highest tier of annual men's tennis tournament after the four Grand Slam tournaments, bringing eight of the highest-ranking singles players and doubles teams for the finale to the men's tennis season.
It is also a partner for ladies equivalent, the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
Rolex and the ATP Masters 1000
Rolex title-sponsors the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (below), Rolex Shanghai Masters (above), and Rolex Paris Masters.
These 3 in addition to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the Miami Open, the Mutua Madrid Open, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, the Rogers Cup in Canada and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, constitute all 9 ATP Tour Masters 1000 tournaments that Rolex is now associated with, constituting the third highest tier in the sport.
Rolex and the Laver Cup and the Davis Cup
Finally, Rolex also supports two team format competitions. Firstly, the Laver Cup, an annual shootfest between Europe and the rest of the world that features 12 top ranked players on the men’s tour.
Secondly, the Davis Cup which started in 1900, attracting the participation of more than 125 nations, making it one of the largest team events in the world.
ATP Tour Restarts on 22 August
Due to the pandemic, Wimbledon had to be cancelled for 2020 instead of postponed. This was inevitable given the seasonal availability of the grass court surface, playable only during the summer months.
Nonetheless, the ATP Masters 1000 event, the Southern & Western Open, serves as the kickoff to the ATP Tour restart on 22 August. Relocated from Cincinnati for this year, it is now part of a 2-tournament "bubble" with the US Open which begins on 31 August; both of which to be held at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This arrangement was made to “allow foreign players to remain in one place for the duration of their stay in the United States,” according to the New York Times.
The French Open rescheduled from May, starts on 27 September, with the Internazionali D'Italia held in Rome as the ATP Masters 1000 tournament serving as the high profile precursor to Roland-Garros.
The resumption of the ATP calendar marks the end of friendlies and private tournaments, and valuable points for player rankings now up for grabs. Roger Federer who just underwent knee surgery will sit out both Grand Slams, whilst Djokovic will head to US Open. Rafa Nadal, the defending US Open champion will skip traveling Stateside and focus on the European leg inside.
On either side of the Atlantic Ocean, there is now a high probability that a new Grand Slam winner, could emerge.
The New Generation of Tennis Stars
In addition to sponsoring events, Rolex has also brought onboard several Rolex "testimonees" from the world of tennis.
These include a new breed of tennis stars that are blazing the trail, a new generation of players who have distinct playing styles and personalities, a new caste of champions ready to inherit the mantle of excellence forged by those before them.
Stefanos Tsitsipas | Current ATP ranking: #6
Stéfanos Tsitsipás in 2019, aged just 20, reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, beating his idol Roger Federer in the fourth round. Six weeks later, he broke into the world top 10, becoming the highest-ranked Greek player in history.
He capped off the year by winning the Nitto ATP Finals, the biggest title of his career to date and to add, the youngest winner of the year-end championships in eighteen years.
Tsitsipás is currently the youngest player ranked in the top 10 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and has a career-high ranking of No. 5 in the world.
Grigor Dimitrov | Current ATP ranking: #19
Grigor Dimitrov is the most successful Bulgarian male tennis player to date, as the first and only Bulgarian male tennis player to win an ATP title in singles (after he won in October 2013 at Stockholm) and reach a final in doubles (in 2011) as well as the only Bulgarian male player to reach the third round or better at a Grand Slam tournament.
His notable successes include reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2014 and the Australian Open in 2017, and winning the Nitto ATP Finals 2017, his eighth ATP singles title. That year saw his ATP singles ranking at world No. 3.
After returning from injuries, Dimitrov beat Roger Federer for the first time in his career in five sets at the 2019 US Open, having been defeated on seven previous occasions, before losing in the semifinals.
The remainder of the 2020 season going into 2021 will be pivotal as Dimitrov turns 30 next year. The last player to win a first ever Grand Slam at an age closest to 30, was Goran Ivanišević at Wimbledon in 2001. Ivanisevic was 29 years, 299 days old. Slightly younger at 28 years, 304 days was Stan Wawrinka who won his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2014. Petr Korda won at the 1998 Australian Open on the other side of 30 years by 9 days. The last remaining instance would be Ken Rosewall at 33 years, 220 days when he prevailed at the 1968 French Open.
Karen Khachanov | Current ATP ranking: #15
Aged 24, Karen Khachanov achieved his career-high singles ranking of world No. 8 last year, reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open. He has won four ATP singles titles. In 2018, he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters defeating world No. 9 John Isner, world No. 5 Alexander Zverev, world No. 8 Dominic Thiem and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
In doing so, he became the first player from Russia to win a tournament at the Masters level since 2009.
Dominic Thiem | Current ATP ranking: #3
Dominic Thiem also at 26 years old seems most primed to hit his peak and by his pre-Covid form, the likeliest to win a Grand Slam. This year, he achieved his career-high ATP ranking at world No. 3.
He is the second highest-ranked Austrian player in history, behind Thomas Muster who attained world No.1 in 1996.
Thiem won his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 title at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, beating Roger Federer in the final. He is a three-time Grand Slam finalist, reaching the finals of the 2018 and 2019 French Open, losing to Rafael Nadal on both occasions, and the 2020 Australian Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
In total, he has won 16 ATP Tour singles titles.
Will we see a Rolex testimonee win a Grand Slam this year? We wouldn't bet against it.
The rest of Rolex's glittering testimonees from the world of tennis includes Juan Martín Del Potro, Caroline Garcia, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Milos Raonic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Sloane Stephens, Belinda Bencic, Kyle Edmund, Taylor Fritz, Lucas Pouille, and Caroline Wozniacki.
Legends of the sport on this list include Björn Borg, Stefan Edberg, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Rod Laver and Li Na.