For all of the equipment that pro tennis players wear while playing a competitive, the most surprising is the wrist-watch. It’s a question one often asks, why do tennis players wear these wrist-watches during a match when they can easily look at the time on court?
We look at the various, possible reasons.
Let’s start with the short answer to…
Why Do Tennis Players Wear Watches?
Very simply, it’s because they are paid by a sponsor to wear the watch. The close-up TV angle of a tennis player in action almost invariably focuses on his/her racket and in turn the arms, the wrist become an excellent real estate for advertisement and what better than for a wrist-watch company to use that up.
So what’s the long answer?
For starters, not a lot of professional players wear wrist-watches during a match. Typically, these players, the big-ticket ones like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and some of the others are sponsored by multi-million deals with watch companies.
And the deal typically expects them to wear these watches during practice sessions, before matches and at press conferences to get maximum mileage out of it.
(interestingly, some players also endorse jewellery including bracelets and necklaces and at times wear that during matches)
Some players are happy to wear their watches during matches too. The biggest example of this is Rafael Nadal, who has signed up with Richard Mille since 2010. The Spaniard first wore the ultra-light RM 027 Tourbillon watch in matches during the French Open that season.
Some of the Richard Mille models which Nadal has endorsed over the years include the RM 27-01, which was the second generation of the RM 27 series, and cost $690,000 per piece, the RM 35-01 at $130,000, RM 35-02 at $145,000 and RM 27-03 which costs a solid $725,000.
Nadal even won his 21st Grand Slam title at the 2022 Australian Open wearing the RM 27-04 – a watch with a bright blue strap, black case and the orange ring.
Do All Tennis Players Wear Wrist Watches?
The watch which Nadal wears to his matches is ultra-light and doesn’t seem to hinder his style of play. However, not everyone likes playing with a wrist-watch attached.
Roger Federer, for instance, only wears his Rolex watch at the end of the match and during press conferences. The model he wore after the 2009 Wimbledon final, at which he defeated Andy Roddick 16-14 in the final set to win his 15th Grand Slam title, was Datejust. According to Rolex it is his favourite and one of the most purchased world-wise.
Serena Williams has a deal with Audemars Piguet since 2014 and she also wears her watches to court. Maria Sharpova, on the other hand, had a deal with Tag Heuer but isn’t known to do that.
Here’s an excellent example of a match between two contemporaries, and arch-rivals – for all the reasons other than their head to head record that is! – Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Williams has worn her watch to the court while Sharapova prefers to play without her Tag Heuer.
Tennis Players Sponsored by Watch Companies
- Roger Federer: Rolex
- Rafael Nadal: Richard Mille
- Novak Djokovic: Audemars Piguet
- Serena Williams: Audemars Piguet
- Maria Sharapova: TAG Heuer
- Li Na: Rolex
- Ana Ivanovic: Rolex
- Caroline Wozniacki: Rolex
- Kim Clijsters: Citizen
- Andy Murray: Rado
- Dominic Thiem: Rolex
- Kei Nishikori: TAG Heuer
- Marin Cilic: Capri Watch
- Stan Wawrinka: Audemars Piguet
- Alexander Zverev: Richard Mille
- Garbine Muguruza: Rolex
- David Ferrer: Bovet Fleurier
- Grigor Dimitrov: Rolex
- Borna Coric: Hublot
- Milos Raonic: Rolex
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Rolex
So Why Don’t All Tennis Players Wear Watches During Matches Even if They Get Paid for it?
Quite simply, some tennis players find it difficult to adjust to the extra weight they have to carry on their non-racket hand and prefer not taking that risk. We are talking of players at the highest level where the difference between winning and losing is a matter of a few inches or grams and expecting them to make drastic changes to their playing style isn’t something worth it for most.
Watch companies also offer deals based on whether or not a player agrees to wear them during matches.
When then are others okay to wear it? Money obviously is a huge factor but why take that chance anyway?
Well, it’s also sometimes about superstition or a good luck charm for many of these players. At some stage of their careers, a player might have worn a watch and done well in that match or tournament which would have allowed them to overcome that mental block as well.
What about Wearing Smart-Watches in Tennis?
This is a heavily growing trend these days and it’s not restricted to top-level tennis players or to the sport of tennis alone. Many players, at different levels of sport and tennis, wear smart-watches during competitions.
Typically, smart-watches aren’t worn for the purpose of endorsements but as a utility item, a watch which offers multiple options to players to assess during and after the match.
Such watches measure a lot of key elements like the speed of a player’s movement, the direction of movement, heart rate and heart rate variability, burnt calories, weather conditions, oxygen levels and act as blood pressure and temperature measures. All of this can help players assess their health and fitness levels and the areas of improvement.
Speaking of tennis in particular, there are smart-watches designed specially for this sport. Watches like these help players their accuracy of the shots they hit, its success rate and efficiency and some other data which can later be collated and analysed by coaches.
Some of these smart-watches for tennis players include Pivot, Babolat Pop and Pulse Play, all of which are designed in a way that they have sensors which help capture data from actual play and feed it to a system. The system then provides a feedback on the areas of strengths and weaknesses for the player.
Is There a Chance of Corruption Because of Tennis Smart-Watches?
This is an interesting one. In more recent times, at least one sporting body has banned the use of smart-watches while playing in order to avoid corruption. The England Cricket Board (or ECB) did this in order to tighten their anti-corruption measures because of the possibility of an increase in fixing.
The cricket body used to allow wearing smart-watches during play but with the condition that data transmission be switched off at those times but with the increasing number of domestic (i.e. non-international) matches live streamed, that rule has been modified.
Tennis has suffered from its corruption issues in recent times too. Match-fixing, according to some experts, is allegedly rampant in the sport and you don’t want smart-watches to only add on to that issue, especially when even lower-level tournaments like the Futures and Challengers are live streamed regularly and bet on.
So while a health-based smart-watch is a decent option, an access to data or internet on the smart-watch makes it more difficult to monitor for corruption. This is an interesting aspect to watch out and things could change in the future too.
Should I Wear a Watch While Playing Tennis?
This is a very subjective question but unless you have a lot of cash to afford or someone is paying you to wear a watch, we would advise you not to do so.
While tennis isn’t a contact sport and doesn’t involve equipment which could lead to breakage, there’s enough wrist-twisting, running and some diving on court which could lead to the destruction of the watch.
Smart-watches are an obvious exception to this rule because they help players by analyzing their game and providing feedback to try and work on.
Can Wearing a Wrist-Watch Come in the Way of Playing Tennis?
This is a genuine issue at the beginner and intermediate level of tennis.
When you are new to a sport, especially one that’s as rigorous as tennis and trying to pick up the tricks and trades of the game, you need all your focus to be on its nuances itself, rather than worrying about a costly piece of (non)-equipment.
That aside, since a lot of these watches might not be suited to playing the sport, there is always that chance of breakage, adding to your costs.
Which is why, at least while starting out, keep away from using wrist watches during tennis matches. Over time as you get used to the sport, increase your levels and want to try out fitness apps or even regular watches, you could do that – who knows this practice might come handy when you do have a watch sponsor knocking at your doors!