HEAD-Gain: Safin Re-Signs With HEAD
By Richard Pagliaro
Two heads are better than one for Marat Safin. The man who once
trashed tennis racquets with the ferocity that Pete Townshend
smashed quitars has settled on a familiar racquet. The second-ranked
Russian has re-signed a multi-year contract with HEAD Racquet
Sports, concluding his controversial endorsement of Dunlop.
The 22-year-old Safin will play with the HEAD i.Prestige mid
size starting in Monday's French Open. The ATP Champions Race
leader had played with a HEAD racquet from the start of his
pro career through March of 2001. Safin enjoyed his best pro
season in 2000 playing with a HEAD racquet as he crushed Pete
Sampas in straight sets to win the U.S. Open championship, won
two Tennis Masters Series titles, reached the top spot in the
rankings and finished the year ranked second behind year-end
No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, another HEAD player.
"By partnering with HEAD, I get to play once again with
the racquet I am most comfortable with, the HEAD i.Prestige,"
Safin said. "There is no other racquet like it that I have
ever used and it maximizes my game to the fullest potential.
I achieved the greatest success of my career to date winning
the U.S. Open with HEAD, and I am confident in my own abilities
along with the performance of my HEAD i.Prestige and expect
to capture more major titles in the near future."
In April of last year, Safin signed a contract to endorse Dunlop,
but never seemed quite comfortable with his new racquet. Last
October, Safin found himself facing a new nemesis in court пїЅ
HEAD. The company filed a complaint in District Court in Munich,
Germany, contending that Safin had continued to play with a
HEAD Prestige racquet painted over with the Dunlop logo appearing
on the strings.
HEAD claimed that Dunlop justified the use of its logo because
it supplied the strings for Safin's racquet. In its complaint,
HEAD charged that the use of Dunlop's logo was unfair competition
as the logo "invariably indicates the origin of the racquet
and not the strings."
The German court granted an injunction against Safin and Dunlop
prohibiting the use of a large logo on the strings of the racquet.
"By no means do we want Marat Safin to stop playing with
his usual racquet with which he secured one of his greatest
victories," HEAD executive vice president racquet sports
division Robert Marte said in a statement last October. "But
we don't think it is right to advertise another brand so flagrantly
using our racquet."
Since settling the dispute, HEAD is happy to have Safin back
under contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"HEAD is proud to welcome Marat back to the team,"
said Johan Eliasch, CEO of HEAD N.V. "A player like him
with such noteworthy potential and skill, will be a global vehicle
for increasing sales and distribution HEAD products, which is
already the racquet of choice of several of the top 100 players
on the professional tour."