It wasn’t quite the way Iga Swiatek wanted to debut her new clothing deal, but the World No 1 was clad in On when she talked to the press about having to pull out of the Miami Open due to a rib injury.
Iga and Ben represent the next generation of world-class talent. Both players demonstrate On's competitive spirit and embody current and future champions of the sport. We are pleased to welcome them to the On family. Roger Federer
The 21-year old Pole was all set to introduce her new look as she defended her title in Florida, but the injury sustained during her run to the semi-finals at Indian Wells last week ruled her out of contention.
“I wanted to wait ’til the last minute to decide whether to play in Miami,” Swiatek said at the news conference on site at the Hard Rock Stadium. “We were kind of checking if this is the kind of injury you can still play with, or this is the kind when you can get things worse.
“So I think the smart move for me is to pull out of this tournament because I want to rest and take care of it properly.
“You know that in and after Doha I was struggling with a strong infection,” Swiatek added. “I was allowed to play, but a strong episode of tough cough led to a rib injury.
“We were trying to handle it, and continue to play as long as it was safe for me. We were analysing the data in the last days, and my doctor prepared my diagnosis.
“Unfortunately, I’m still feeling a lot of discomfort and pain and I can’t compete.”
The next event on Swiatek’s schedule will now be the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, which begins on 17 April and where she also is the defending champion.
On has put the sport on notice by launching a tennis clothing range and signing Swiatek and rising American star and ATP World No 41 Ben Shelton to deals that will eventually see both decked from head-to-toe in On gear.
“I’m very excited to be the first female player to join with On, and truly thrilled how On‘s Lightning innovation team works and adapts technologies to meet the demands of athletes, supporting their careers,” the three-time major champion said in a recent statement. “It has been very inspirational for me to develop my ideas and needs with them, working on my current and future gear.”
Roger Federer has been an investor in the Swiss-based company and its brand ambassador since 2019.
“Iga and Ben represent the next generation of world-class talent,” he stated. “Both players demonstrate On‘s competitive spirit and embody current and future champions of the sport.
“We are pleased to welcome them to the On family.”
Swiatek won the French Open in 2020 and 2022 as well as the US Open last year, while she also has 12 WTA tour-level titles to her name.
The top player in the world is only the 4th in history to extend her top-ranked status for over 50 weeks, a run that is ongoing.
Having previously represented Asics since 2020, and Nike prior to that, Swiatek had hoped to make the change to On for Miami.
“On‘s core values are what connects me with the company,” she said. “I look forward to growing with the brand, and setting an example for other players who aim to be the best.”
Swiatek, who has yet to meet Federer face to face, was sold on working with the company after discussions between herself and the company, and she feels the Swiss was the seal of approval that she needed to get involved with the apparel company whose primary focus has been athletic shoes.
“I think, just the fact that Roger is involved in that kind of company is just a good recommendation for tennis players,” Swiatek told reporters at the Miami Open. “I think, also, he influenced a lot on [the company’s] side, so that’s why they want to go further and they want to sign players.”
The Roger Pro sneaker was first introduced on court by Federer in March 2021, and has been seen on the world stage since, worn by a variety of pro players.
On says an in-development new edition of The Roger Pro shoe is being ‘custom-designed in close collaboration with both players, Roger Federer and the Lightning innovation team at On Labs to meet the demands of the player’s individual style of game’.
The Roger Pro shoe offers the performance element of Federer’s signature line that also includes 3 lifestyle silhouettes and, in March, On is adding a clay version of the shoe through retailers.
As is common with top-level endorsed athletes, On will specify each version of The Roger Pro to the individual needs of Swiatek and Shelton.
Once the footwear is sorted, both will be wearing head-to-toe On product, which now could be as early as the start of the clay season.
“I’m pretty happy that we could make it happen, because I feel, like, we share the same values,” Swiatek said. “They have a personal approach for the players.
“I feel, like, it’s treating me first, like, a person, but not mainly as a machine to win, you know?
“It’s a nice feeling to have that kind of support. I’m really happy that I’m starting this new chapter.”
On are confident that their Roger Pro clay court shoes will give players an edge, with the clay-specific outsole being the only significant difference between the two editions of the shoes.
“The main change to the clay version of The Roger Pro is the full-length herringbone outsole,” Edwin James, On Product Manager, told Forbes. “It is engineered to move clay through the grooves so you can execute consistent and controlled slides without compromising on grip.
“We follow the herringbone pattern as we know it is what players prefer and need on the clay surface.”
New custom On tennis shoes will be produced for both Swiatek and Shelton.
The pathway to the sponsorship endorsement discussions were somewhat different for Shelton, the American having made waves by winning the 2022 NCAA singles championship as a sophomore at the University of Florida.
That summer he competed on the ATP Tour, securing a Top 5 win over Casper Ruud and showing promise that led to him turning pro in August, competing in the 2022 US Open, breaking the Top 100 by the end of the year and earning a main draw entry the 2023 Australian Open, his first-ever trip outside of the country, where he reached the quarter-finals.
Courted by a variety of tennis brands, Shelton’s agent is Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albano, the same agent for Coco Gauff and part of Federer and Tony Godsick’s Team8 agency.
It was no surprise to see Shelton adorned in New Balance gear on court in Miami and On gear off court ahead of the On announcement.
“As someone in the early stage of my professional career and a challenger on the tour, I love that I’ve partnered with a company that has years of experience in sports performance and is looking to take over a new sport like tennis,” Shelton stated. “I’m really pumped to be the first male tennis player sponsored by On.”
Marc Maurer, On co-CEO says that expanding the brand’s professional tennis roster builds off the growth they have already seen in high-performance running.
“Iga sets a superior standard for ushering in a new contingent of outstanding tennis pros who will benefit from On‘s years of performance innovations” he said. “We’re excited for the journey with our impressive team, as their careers will undoubtedly flourish on the world stage for many years to come.”
While On tennis apparel won’t be immediately available through retailers, expect the collections to appear within the next year.