When Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic go head-to-head in tonight's (22:00 BST) US Open men's singles final, it will mark an end to years of Nike and Adidas' sponsorship dominance of grand slam finals.
For the first time since the 2003 French Open final, neither sportswear brand will have a sponsored player in a grand slam final. Nishikori is sponsored by Japanese clothing company Uniqlo while Cilic wears Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning.
The final also marks the first major final in nine years since the 2005 Australian Open final between Marat Safin and Leyton Hewitt that one of the “big four” players Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray does not feature.
World no.10 Nishikori knocked out Djokovic at the semi-final stage last week, becoming the first Japanese man to reach a major final in the process, while Cilic toppled the mighty Federer at the same stage.
And when the two face each other tonight, it will mark the first absence of a Nike or Adidas emblazoned shirt at a slam final since Sergio Tacchini-sponsored Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Puma’s Martin Verkerk at Roland Garros in 2003.
Uniqlo-clad Kei Nishikori vs. Li Ning-wearing Marin Cilic ends streak of 45 men's Slam finals featuring Nike or Adidas (2003 French).#usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 6, 2014
If 24-year-old Nishikori can extend his run one match further tonight, it will mean Uniqlo will have a third grand slam title won by one of its sponsored players. The company is more well known for its high-street style than a ubiquity in sports, but in 2012 it struck a sponsorship deal with Djokovic, and the Serb has won both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in its gear since.
However, it has been Nike who have been the dominant force on the court in recent years, thanks to its sponsorship of titans Federer and Nadal. The two greats of the game have appeared in 16 out of the 19 grand slam finals since 2010, and either the Swiss or the Spaniard has won 11 of those matches.
It has arguably been Djokovic, however, who has been the dominant force in the same time period - but two brands have had to share in that success. Prior to being sponsored by Uniqlo, Djokovic won four grand slam titles (three from 2010) and appeared in five finals with sponsorship from Sergio Tacchini. However, the two parties parted company just over three years into a ten-year contract, as Djokovic was just too good for the Italian brand; Djokovic had a bonus clause based on titles won and Sergio Tacchini just couldn’t keep up.
Adidas’ appearances in grand slam finals since 2010 have come solely through Andy Murray. Yonex’s 100 per cent record at the stage is thanks to Stan Wawrinka’s Australian Open triumph earlier this year, while Lotto has twice had losing finalists - David Ferrer at last year’s French Open, and Robin Soderling at the same competition in 2010.
The dominance of Rafael Nadal at the French Open can be seen through the five Roland Garros titles won by a player kitted out in Nike since 2010 - the Spaniard has won all 5.