Photo : ATP Tour
Basketballs and tennis balls couldn’t be more different in terms of size and how they zoom across the court.
But in recent years, basketball and tennis have still managed to collide.
On December 4 in Washington, just a stone’s throw from the suburb where he was born, Frances Tiafoe shared a quick hug with NBA legend LeBron James, who was in town with the Lakers.
Tiafoe wanted to thank King James in person for tweeting his congratulations on Frances’ emotional win over Rafael Nadal at last summer’s US Open.
When he saw the tweet after his match, Tiafoe couldn’t believe it.
“Man, I was losing it in the locker room. Bro, I was going crazy,” he said. “That’s my guy. So, to see him post that, I was like, ‘Do I retweet it as soon as he sent it?’ I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to be cool and act like I didn’t see it and then retweet it three hours later.’”
And that’s not the only episode to bring the two sports together. Tiafoe’s anecdote notwithstanding, it would be difficult to find a member of the ATP more closely linked to basketball than Nick Kyrgios.
The Australian star loves hoops so much that he walks on and off the court in basketball shoes and is often spotted wearing a team cap and NBA jersey during warm-ups.
Nick isn’t just a fan. He also plays.
Last April, he proved he had some major skills at a charity basketball match in Australia.
He can do it all: shoot, dribble and block. In just 20 minutes, he racked up 16 points, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He may not have been up against the likes of Steph Curry, but there’s no denying Nick’s talent.
For NK and Big Foe, basketball is a passion.
And they aren’t alone.
Would you be surprised to learn that Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Tsonga, Monfils, Zverev, Paul, Munar, Fritz and Isner all play? You’ll be amazed by this 2021 compilation by the ATP, which provides proof that the tennis aces have style and substance on the basketball court, too.
They’re good—and not just in their chosen sport. They’re athletes, through and through. You might even say some are true sports chameleons.
Roger Federer: How to retire rich
When Roger Federer called it quits last September, he left tennis as the wealthiest player in history—a record that will likely stand forever.
It’s hard to imagine even his most illustrious contemporaries catching up. While Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have surpassed him in terms of Slam crowns, Roger’s still got the most gold in the bank.
Of course, athletes don’t make their fortune in sports but in the offices of the corporations for which they sign on as spokespersons.
The numbers don’t lie.
Over the past two years, Federer earned only $730,000 on the courts. Off the courts, he collected $180M. He’s been a fixture on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, even in those two seasons he hardly played at all. From 2012 to 2022, he consistently sat at no.7 or higher.
Considering his image, his qualities as an ambassador and his enduring visibility, he may be on his way to joining the very select club of billionaire sports stars, alongside Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods.
Here’s what that roster currently looks like.
It’s safe to assume Uniqlo, Wilson, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Lindt and Credit Suisse will remain loyal to Roger for years to come as his personal fortune rises into the ten figures. Not to mention the fact that he’ll continue to command sky-high appearance fees.
There’s also the tremendously popular On sneaker brand in which he invested in 2019 and whose market capitalization just hit $6B.
And TEAM8 Sports & Entertainment, which he founded with his agent and friend Tony Godsick. Also invested in On and Laver Cup, the firm represents Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro and young star Coco Gauff.
That alone should be enough to keep Roger’s accounts in the black. At least for the next few decades.
Until he retires with Mirka to a remote Swiss canton to relish in the tinkling bells of the cows grazing on the lush green meadows outside his mountainside retreat.
And hasn’t he been the ambassador of Switzerland Tourism since 2021? A job for life, if he wants it, since he’s often professed his love for his home country and said he has no intention of ever living elsewhere.
Remember that Swiss tourism promo video I included in one of last year’s posts featuring Roger and a surprise guest star? Here it is again.
This past season, a teenager rose from No.2214 to No.509—a staggering jump of 1,705 spots in the rankings.
The teen may deserve the title of most improved player of 2022 in my season recap, but he won’t get it, since he earned only 69 ATP points.
Still, I’m dedicating an entire segment to him, because he’s not just any teen. More specifically, he’s not the son of just any father.
With a name as widely recognized as Borg, you don’t have to look very far to figure out who that father is. So, just imagine how things go down when he competes in Sweden, their country. In Stockholm, their hometown.
At 19, Leo may look like his dad, but he lacks Bjorn’s maturity and exceptional talent.
At the age of 19 years and 5 months, Bjorn was World No.4, had raised his first ATP winner’s trophy two years earlier (age 17 years and 6 months) and was months away from securing his first Slam in Paris.
But none of that matters. Considering how challenging it can be to carry on such a legendary surname, very few kids have been able to match or surpass their famous tennis parent. I even wrote about it this fall here.
As far as first titles go, Leo Borg won his at the M15 Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt. In the final, then ranked No.575, he defeated 18-year-old Bor Artnak of Slovenia (then No.792) in two sets (3-6, 7-5, 6-4).
Leo ended the season with a 69–29 record (including 30–19 in U15 and 8–4 in U25), but the highlight of 2022 came on October 18, when he played in an ATP 250 tournament at the Kungliga Tennishallen.
He’d been awarded a wildcard by organizers, who felt it was the right time to give him an opportunity to compete on the main stage.
And attract tonnes of spectators, of course.
Was it a blessing or a curse? There’s pressure playing at home. And there’s pressure knowing your dad—not just any dad—is sitting right behind you in the stands.
The kid didn’t disappoint. Not his dad, not the fans, not tournament organizers. Even if he didn’t win.
Against titleholder and World No.31 Tommy Paul of the US, Borg played inspired tennis and took the first set 7-5 in front of a roaring crowd that never saw it coming.
Let’s face it: the No.577 was the obvious favourite to lose to a player of Paul’s calibre. But that first set proved to everyone, including Leo, that he belongs in the ATP. It was the first set he ever won on the pro tour.
In the end, Borg fell 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. The result hardly affected his ranking but likely did a whole lot for his confidence.
Until then, Leo had faced only one player of Tommy Paul’s calibre, and that was Tommy Paul himself. Exactly one year earlier, at the same tournament and with the same wildcard, Borg suffered a much quicker two-set defeat (6-2, 6-2) at the hands of the American, then ranked No.52.
If there’s a player ranked in the 400s to keep an eye on in 2023, it’s Borg.
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