More Sports / Tennis

Uniqlo could make play for Naomi Osaka

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Reports that U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka has agreed to or signed a new endorsement deal with Adidas worth $8.5 million a year are untrue, The Japan Times has learned.

Osaka, a 20-year-old who was born in Japan and moved to the United States at the age of 3, is one of the hottest commodities in sports now after becoming the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam singles title with a dominating victory over Serena Williams in the final in New York earlier this month.

Following her surprise triumph over the 23-time Grand Slam champion, The Times of London reported on Sept. 10 that Osaka “was set to sign a clothing deal that will be the biggest in women’s tennis, worth an estimated £6.5 million a year.” The story was picked up and widely distributed by other outlets.

However, a tennis source familiar with the situation has told The Japan Times that “the story was false” and went on to say that other companies could be in the picture for Osaka’s services, including Uniqlo and Nike.

Uniqlo sponsors Kei Nishikori, the first Japanese to make a Grand Slam singles final when he did so at the 2014 U.S. Open, and previously had 14-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic. The company is owned by billionaire Japanese businessman Tadashi Yanai, which would seem to make Osaka a natural choice to join forces with.

Just last month, superstar Roger Federer ended his long relationship with Nike to sign a 10-year, $300 million deal with Uniqlo.

Osaka’s contract with Adidas is due to expire at the end of this year, and bidding for the young star’s signature could skyrocket. Her youth and marketability to different cultures would be attractive to many companies. The Osaka native, who turns 21 next month, could have a very long and productive career ahead of her.