January in Melbourne means one thing – the Australian Open. To celebrate the first Grand Slam of the calendar year kicking off next week, Japanese sports giant Asics has announced a huge addition to their footwear family – 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic.
The 30-year old Serb ace has just come back from a six month stint on the sidelines after issues and subsequent elbow surgery forced his retirement from the Wimbledon quarter-finals back in July. His first hit in the six months since was back in late December in Abu Dhabi and after warming up this week at the Kooyong Classic, overpowering world number five Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 on Wednesday, he’s feeling confident without putting expectations on his Australian Open prospects – “Honestly, none (expectations) because I’ve been out of the tour for so long and the fact that my elbow didn’t recover 100% at the beginning of the season meant I needed to take more time off than planned.”
The partnership forms part of the Asics’ global ‘I Move Me’ campaign which has seen the brand present a contemporary expression of the its founding philosophy – ‘sound mind in a sound body’ – with a focus on participation as well as performance. What’s interesting is that Djokovic has signed on as both a performance and lifestyle athlete, meaning we could see a range of non tennis-related footwear adorned with his logo considering how big he is on fitness.
The former world number one has been an adidas footwear athlete his whole career, and while his apparel sponsor is Lacoste (Djokovic is one of only a few athletes that splits his footwear and apparel sponsors) he’s chosen to take a different path. A new brand sponsorship always means a new signature model, which Asics also launched yesterday at the announcement, the Gel-Resolution Novak – “The light weight and support structures on the midfoot allow me to move quickly and ensure I have the right stability,” something the Serb needs with his slalom skier-like flexibility and movement on court.
Djokovic is seeded No. 14 for next week’s Australian Open and opens his account against American Donald Young, aiming for his seventh title at Melbourne Park.