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."

courtesy tennisweek.com