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Sunday, September 26, 2021

US Open 2021: Why Reilly Opelka’s pink tote bag landed him a $10,000 fine

Reilly Opelka has been slapped with a fine of US $10,000 for carrying a pink tote bag at the US Open. Why was it a problem, and how did the World No 24 react?

Written by Shahid Judge | Mumbai |
Updated: September 9, 2021 1:33:10 pm
Reilly Opelka of the United States leaves the court following his loss to Lloyd Harris of South Africa in the US Open tennis championships, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo: Elise Amendola)

When Reilly Opelka walked out on court in the second round of the US Open, what drew attention – more than his 6-foot-11 frame – was the pink tote bag he was carrying. The American carried the bag instead of the usual handbag provided by his racquet sponsor. But since the unexpected selection advertised a brand logo bigger than what is permitted, organisers were quick to slap a US $10,000 fine on the World No 24 – the biggest fine to be handed out at the tournament so far.

Why was Reilly Opelka’s pink bag a problem?

According to the rules, bags provided by a player’s racquet manufacturer (Wilson, in Opelka’s case) can advertise the name of two other brands the player is associated with. However, “neither commercial identification (can exceed) four square inches.”

The name mentioned on Opelka’s tote bag was longer than four inches in length, and so irked the organisers. The chair umpire had reportedly asked Opelka to cover up the bag when he walked out on court to play against Italian Lorenzo Musetti. The American, however, ignored the umpire’s suggestion.

What was the brand on the bag?

The words ‘Tim Van Laere Gallery’ were emblazoned on one side of the bag. The gallery is based in Antwerp, Belgium, and displays works of emerging or established artists, according to its website.

The homepage of the gallery has a pink background with the name in black, the same way it was on Opelka’s bag.

Reilly Opelka sits in his chair next to his pink bag during a match at the US Open. (AP Photo: Elise Amendola)

Former World No. 1 Andy Roddick took to social media to assert that it is the gallery that should pay Opelka’s fine for the publicity they were getting at such a big event.

“If I’m the company, I pay the fine for him, and have him take the bag back out again for (the next match),” Roddick tweeted.

How did Opelka react to the fine?

He called it “a joke” in the press conference following his third-round win against Nikoloz Basilashvili.

“The head referee was telling me you should have come in and had this thing measured. We had that logo specifically made,” Opelka said.

“We measured. It is too big. We made the effort to make it smaller. There was a mistake in production, I think, because in Europe with the conversion, with what was allowed. But I made the effort.

“I thought (the fine) was a bit harsh, a bit excessive. My job is not to measure logos. My job is to win matches. I have bigger things to worry about.

“You want to take away our prize money the whole time? I guess they’re making up for lost ticket sales last year. I’d love to see it get donated elsewhere. We’ve had a few tragedies here in the States the last couple weeks. If they are going to take 10K from me, it better not go to a major corporation. That’s my thought.”

Has individual branding for players been a problem for organisers?

Not really. However, considering what happened with Opelka, it is curious that Danish player Holger Rune was reprimanded for carrying an Ikea tote bag for his match against Novak Djokovic. The Swedish company’s name was clearly marked on the straps of the blue bag he carried with him. It’s unknown if Rune’s bag was measured before he walked into Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Last year, in his second-round match at the US Open against India’s Sumit Nagal, Dominic Thiem opened up an energy drink can he is sponsored by. Organisers quickly asked him if they could take the can off court and pour it into an unmarked cup.

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