America’s slam commenced Monday, and while the men and women who will look to secure the last major title of the year will receive extremely lucrative compensation for testing their tenacity and tendons on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s hardcourts, the organizers made sure the athletes could count on another form of appreciation for their efforts. On Sunday, the U.S Open debuted its eponymous Player Gift Suite, endowing the tournament’s 450 main draw singles and doubles entrants with treats from heavyweights such as Tiffany & Company and Nordstrom and goodies from other high-end gift providers.
The fourth Grand Slam on the grueling tennis calendar had not been without its share of compelling storylines already, including the withdrawal of many top male players, including last year’s finalists, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic, due to injury; the absence of six-time winner Serena Williams as she prepares for the birth of her first child; the inability of two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka to compete as she deals with a custody case involving her infant son; and the first major appearance by Maria Sharapova since the 2006 champion’s spring return from a drug suspension. So enhancing the late summer event’s mystique with the commercial gathering certainly proves the overseers’ added commitment to pleasing the players and making news. Nordstrom hosted the event, which draws inspiration from Tennis Australia, whose annual invitations for the athletes to collect swag has certainly helped January’s Australian Open to earn its status as “the happy slam.”
“They originated the idea of a gifting suite,” USTA chief executive for professional tennis Stacey Allaster said of her peers down under. “We’ve built upon that idea. One of the things we are trying to do at the U.S. Open is to create an exceptional experience for the athletes, their family and friends, not only on the court but off the court.”
The professionals have always reaped the benefits of their participation in the New York-situated competition, but this marked the initial occasion that they flocked together to receive the giveaways. The aforementioned business behemoths stood out among the benefactors, with Tiffany’s offering a choice between a sterling silver bracelet and a sterling silver money clip, and Nordstrom putting up a gift certificate. Promotional products supplier ShedRain Corporation offered umbrellas, too, and other freebies included, among others, Bose earbuds, Smith sunglasses and Sugarfina gourmet candy.
“I think it’s rare to have those kinds of gifts for players,” top-ranked Karolina Pliskova, who dropped a heartbreaker in last year’s final to Angelique Kerber, said of the items, which have a total retail value of $1,500, according to Allaster,
“Probably the prized gift is Tiffany’s,” the executive said of the Fifth Avenue-based luxury jewelry and speciality retailer located not far from the tennis action. “Who doesn’t want to leave New York with a (Tiffany’s) little blue box?”
For that matter, who would want to split town without the winner’s trophy, too, which would definitely complement all the other products? With the U.S. Open running through Sept. 10, it will be interesting to see if the swag gives anyone additional swagger.