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The top WTA pros turned successful business owners

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It’s no secret that tennis players are the highest earning female athletes in the world. Many of these women have used their on-court success as a platform to enter into business ventures. Instead of resting on their sizable on-court earnings, these business-savvy women are capitalizing on their off-court opportunities.

Serena Williams, Serena

Serena Williams launched her clothing brand Serena in 2018. Her mission is to “celebrate and champion all women” and she encourages the use of her hashtag, #BeSeenBeHeard.

The clothing options cover at-home leisure, going-out casual wear and runway fashion, and every item is made of high-quality material to fit all body types. Serena unveiled her latest work on Tuesday with a new collection for New York Fashion Week.

Maria Sharapova, Sugarpova

Maria Sharapova’s premium candy company Sugarpova was founded in 2012. Sugarpova “reflects the fun, fashionable, sweet side of international tennis sensation Maria Sharapova.”

A longtime candy lover, Sharapova created her own business to offer an accessible bite of luxury by interpreting classic candies in her own signature style. Her products include gumballs in the shape of tennis balls, gummies, truffles, chocolate bars and many more treats.

Dominika Cibulkova, ByDomi

Dominica Cibulkova is known for fighting spirit on court, but she’s just as well known for her sense of style. The 30-year-old can always be spotted wearing the latest trends and posing for photoshoots and elevator mirror selfies to show off her latest fashion statements.

Cibulkova’s company is different from a regular clothing company since it’s actually a foundation. The goal of ByDomi is to “support the former successful athletes, artists, scientists and other personalities from social life who previously represented the Slovak Republic at notable events or created conducive values for our society and who are in need of social support nowadays.”

The Slovakian recently opened an academy in Bratislava called Love4Tennis.

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Mayweather Sports a Nadal Richard Mille Timepiece

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Luxury watches and tennis have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. The most famous watchmaker and player partnership that comes to mind is Rolex and Roger Federer—with Rolex a prominent part of this week’s US Open.

There is another, slightly lesser-known collaboration between watchmaker and player to take note of: Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille. While most players put their sponsored watches on after match point, Nadal began wearing Richard Mille on court at the 2010 US Open.

Floyd Mayweather recently showed off a Rafael Nadal’s Richard Mille watch (the red RM035-02 Rafael Nadal QTPT, which has a price tag of $135,000.) The two athletes would have a lot in common with their respective dominance; the King of the Ring is 50-0 in his boxing career, while the King of Clay is 93-2 in Paris.

Mayweather’s recent watch choice only enhances the spotlight on Richard Mille that Nadal has helped brighten. When Nadal won the French Open last year, he got some attention for the $725,000 Richard Mille bright-colored RM 27-03 accessory on his wrist. When he won French Open No. 12 earlier this season, his watch was front and center once again when he shook hands with the King of Spain—who was wearing an RM009.

Nadal and Richard Mille have created a lasting relationship, coming out with a handful of versions of timepieces. The latest version, the RM027-03 has a red and yellow color scheme to represent the national flag of Spain, Nadal’s home country, and has a bull emblem, which goes hand-in-hand with Nadal’s brand.

On court, the world No. 2 is famous for his intensity and problem-solving tactics. He has found his equal in Richard Mille who had to do its own problem-solving for Nadal. The 33-year-old is notorious for his superstitious habits and attention to detail when it comes to his on-court comfort, and was certain that he would never find a watch light or comfortable enough to wear while playing.

Richard Mille proved him wrong by creating the lightest tourbillons in the world at the time (in 2008). His personalized watch weighs in around 30 grams, and Nadal refers to it as a “second skin.”

Richard Mille website describes its partnership with the 18-time Grand Slam champion as “Historic tennis longevity.” It’s fitting since, even closing in on two decades on tour, the Spaniard’s game doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon.

Follow Rachel Stuhlmann on Instagram @RStuhlmann.

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Franklin Tiafoe Looks to Make a Name for Himself

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Many sibling duos have taken over the world together: the Bryans, the McEnroes, the Murrays, the Zverevs and the Williamses, to name a few. Franklin Tiafoe is looking to add another name to the list.

The world is well aware of Frances Tiafoe. Currently ranked No. 52, the 21-year-old won his first ATP title last February in Delray Beach. He has rocked American tennis with his meteoric rise, and will have many eyes on him at next week’s US Open.

But Frances has a twin brother, Franklin, who’s trying to carve out his place too.

“I want to be known as Franklin Tiafoe, not Frances’s brother,” he told Baseline.

The Tiafoe story has been heard before. Although the brothers’ mother and father met in the U.S., both were born in Sierra Leone. Their father, Frances Tiafoe Sr., comes from a wealthy family, and was a successful politician, and their mother, Alphina Kamara, comes from a large, modest family. Frances Sr. was able to come over to America many times, before making a permanent move.

Not long after, Alphina won the U.S. Green Card lottery and left behind a country in the midst of civil war. Both Frances Sr. and Alphina ended up in College Park, Maryland, where they met and eventually had twin boys, Frances Jr. and Franklin. A few years later, Frances Sr. took a construction job at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) where he helped build the courts and was eventually promoted to head of maintenance.

When the boys were young, Frances Sr. would bring them to JTCC while he worked his shifts. They would help out by throwing out trash, clearing up the balls, and sweeping and watering the clay courts. The brothers would sometimes pick up racquets to play with when there was a court available. Being around tennis so much instilled a desire in both Frances and Franklin to want to play more. With their mother working double shifts as a nurse, Franklin and Frances spent a lot of nights sleeping in the massage room at the JTCC.

“Back then, we were so small that we could fit on the massage table side by side,” Franklin says. “My brother and I would talk about our dreams of playing pro tennis while we fell asleep on those massage tables.”

The Tiafoes picked up the game quickly, demonstrating natural talent and ability. The coaches at the JTCC soon took note and gave them an opportunity to enroll in clinics for free. Their first official coach, Misha Kuznetsov, saw their pure love for the sport and believed they could excel professionally, or at least, earn college scholarships.

“He truly took my brother and I under his wing,” Franklin says.

According to Franklin, Frances was a very focused child and knew how to block all distractions. Franklin, on the other hand, was the opposite. He was the wild child and often found himself getting into trouble. When the boys were about 11 years old, Frances surpassed Franklin on the court and was offered a place in the homeschooling program at the tennis center. Kuznetsova started focusing more on Frances, while Franklin was grounded too often for any coach to work with him.

As his brother developed into a top player, Franklin never worked consistently with a coach. Instead, he would train alone. He still had the dream of one day playing professional tennis, but he still had a troublemaker reputation and felt like no one took him seriously.

Franklin took responsibility for his own game, spending late nights at the courts hitting serves and practicing with one of his best friends, Kenneth Downing. He would also spend evenings in the gym working out.

“My mama would call me thinking I was messing around in the streets, but I was literally in the gym and on the court 24/7,” he says.

When the brothers’ sophomore year of high school rolled around, a member of the JTCC who is also a very close family friend of the Tiafoes, Bob Larson, offered Franklin a spot on the DeMatha Catholic High School team.

Playing tennis at DeMatha, Franklin matured immensely, and though he was the best player on the team, he had to make sure that he focused hard on his school work so that he was eligible to compete. Still, Franklin would play with a chip on his shoulder as he was constantly being compared to his brother. He was never known as “Franklin Tiafoe” but instead as “Frances’ brother.”

During his junior year, he was offered an opportunity to play Division I tennis at the University of Maryland. But just before the start of his freshman year, Maryland cut their men’s tennis team, leaving Franklin feeling lost. He decided to travel with his brother to a string of ITF and ATP Challengers, watching him crack the Top 100.

After the end of the summer, a JTCC alum, Eric Spangler, introduced Franklin to Division III tennis at a college in Maryland, Salisbury University. Since Franklin lacked a junior ranking, he jumped at the offer, but his coach put him on the bench. Franklin lost his motivation both on the court and in the classroom.

The trials continued for Franklin during his next semester as his grades were so low that he was not eligible to play. Feeling down, he decided to leave Salisbury and enroll in classes at a local community college back home. He was back to training at the JTCC, largely on his own and working out with Downing again.

His dreams took a big turn upward when his parents recently sent him to Orlando to the USTA National Campus, where he is now training at the headquarters of American tennis. His hopes for the future?

“Hustle and be the best I can be, and motivate the young ones coming up,” he says.

At 21, he now feels like he can officially begin his professional career, while also supporting his twin as Frances heads into the US Open. Who knows, maybe in 2021 you’ll see two Tiafoes in the US Open draw.

Follow Rachel Stuhlmann on Instagram @RStuhlmann.