The sports agent Tony Godsick pulled into the parking lot of the U.S. Open a little before noon last Saturday, jumped out of the Mercedes S.U.V. he had been lent for the tournament, threw a blazer over his blue-and-white striped shirt and made his way through the V.I.P. entrance of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Mr. Godsick, 47, waved across the players’ lounge at Boris Becker, chatted with a 1983 semifinalist named Jimmy Arias, dissected a John Isner match with the former player and current coach Justin Gimelstob, embraced the surprise 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta and nodded at a passing David Goffin, the Belgian tennis player ranked No. 10 in the world.
Mr. Godsick, the chief executive of Team8, a boutique management agency, is a popular guy in the tennis world, which he has been a part of for more than 25 years, and one-half of a power couple that includes his wife, Mary Joe Fernandez, the former player and now television commentator. But his celebrity is also a direct result of the person he was about to see play that afternoon: Roger Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
As he walked up the staircase that led to the players’ cafeteria, Mr. Godsick talked about his longtime friend and client — someone who is also one of Mr. Godsick’s three founding partners at Team8 — and the possible challenge he might face that day in the talented but erratic Nick Kyrgios.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” Mr. Godsick said.
It wasn’t. Mr. Federer dispatched the 30th-ranked Mr. Kyrgios in straight sets, though he would unexpectedly lose to the little-known Australian John Millman two nights later, making his earliest exit from the U.S. Open since 2013.
That defeat was the most recent on-court setback for Mr. Federer, following a quarterfinal exit at this year’s Wimbledon and then a loss in Cincinnati to the suddenly resurgent Novak Djokovic.
Tony Godsick, Mr. Federer’s agent and business partner, and Mirka Federer, the player’s wife, at the U.S. Open during the fourth-round match against John Millman. Mr. Federer lost in four sets, his earliest exit at the Open since 2013.
Off the court, however, it has been a summer of stunning professional achievement for both the player and his business partner.
In June, Team8 negotiated a 10-year, $300 million endorsement deal with Uniqlo, a move that was unveiled on July 2 when Mr. Federer walked out on Center Court at Wimbledon in new tennis whites from the Japanese brand. That outfit prompted a news alert from the BBC, immediately lit up Twitter and temporarily moved coverage of Mr. Federer from the sports section to the fashion pages.
After the deal was announced, The Times of London estimated that Mr. Federer would soon be earning $74 million a year from endorsements alone, making him the highest-paid athlete in the world off the playing field. (According to The Times, LeBron James is No. 2, at $52 million.)
The Uniqlo deal was the result of an unexpected turn of events in March. Nike, Mr. Federer’s sponsor for two decades, decided not to renew his contract, making him an unlikely free agent. The news was not made public, but Mr. Godsick began quietly putting out feelers and, through an intermediary, reached out to Tadashi Yanai, the chairman and chief executive of Uniqlo.
The deal with Uniqlo was completed in time for Mr. Federer to unveil his newly branded tennis whites on opening day at Wimbledon.
A few months later, after Mr. Godsick had flown to Tokyo for a half-hour meeting with Mr. Yanai, the deal was signed in time to make that Wimbledon debut.
“It‘s amazing for me, at 37, to sign a long-term partnership like this,” Mr. Federer said in a phone interview the afternoon after his victory over Mr. Kyrgios. “Very often at the end of your playing career, people say, ‘Well, he’s going to be a retired tennis player at some point, and that will be it.’ It’s like a falling star in the sky: It’s beautiful, and then it’s gone.
“To me,” he continued, “it felt like they didn’t see me as a falling star, but a star that is always going to be up there, shining brightly.”
Why did Uniqlo make this huge bet on an athlete who, by his own admission, is nearing the end of his playing career?
“First, you have to understand that we are not a traditional sports company,” said John Jay, the president of global creative for Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo. “What was so attractive about Roger was that he was in many ways an embodiment of a person who we considered an outstanding long-term ambassador for the values and principles of the Uniqlo brand. We saw that his contributions and allure was already far greater than sports.”
Added Mr. Jay, “We clearly think his greatest impact on the world is yet to come.”
Mr. Godsick said he remained “confused” about why Nike had decided to end the relationship. “We had a great relationship with Nike, so I don’t really want to go into it, but one of the real mysteries for me is why they let him go,” he said. (For now, Nike still owns the rights to the RF logo, a ubiquitous sight on the caps of Mr. Federer’s fans at Grand Slam tournaments.)
Team8 has not yet signed Mr. Federer to a sneaker endorsement contract. He continues to wear Nikes.
Mr. Federer said he wasn’t upset that Nike had decided not to renew his contract — “it was probably time to move on” — but he regretted the way that the relationship had come to an end.
“We had some tough negotiations 10 years ago, 15 years ago, so you get used to it,” he said. “But it’s all good. We tried to work it out for a year, maybe even more than a year — and from my point of view, I thought I was being reasonable.
“But everybody sees it differently,” he added. “And what you see as your value may be not what they see. I’m happy to be proven right, with this long-term deal with Uniqlo.”
Thorough a spokeswoman, Nike executives declined to discuss their decision. “We do not comment on athlete contracts,” the company said in a statement.
‘Get This Deal Done’
It was 2005, just before that year’s U.S. Open, and Mr. Godsick, then an agent at IMG, got a call from Monica Seles. Ms. Seles, a former No. 1 player, had been one of his first clients after he joined the agency in 1993, the week after graduating from Dartmouth.
“You’re about to get a new client,” she said.
“Who?” Mr. Godsick asked.
“Roger Federer,” she replied.
Mr. Godsick was intrigued. Mr. Federer had been at IMG earlier in his career, well before he had begun winning Slams on a regular basis, but had gone off on his own, running his business with a team composed of his father and mother, Robert and Lynette, and his wife, Mirka. IMG, then owned by Theodore J. Forstmann, was eager to bring Mr. Federer back into the company fold.
Five minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Mr. Forstmann. “Godsick,” his boss barked. “I’m about to make your career. Get down to my office.” At that meeting, Mr. Fortsmann was blunt: “Get this deal done.”
Two weeks later, right after Mr. Federer had beaten Andre Agassi in the final (6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1), Mr. Godsick was waiting in the small referees’ room in Arthur Ashe Stadium when Mr. Federer entered, still clutching his trophy.
The brief meeting with Roger and Mirka — then and now a key figure in her husband’s management — went well, and the three agreed to continue their discussion the next day, Monday, at the Federers’ hotel. That, too, went well, until Mr. Federer said he and Mirka would be flying back to their home in Switzerland shortly and would complete the deal on Thursday.
“No, no,” Mr. Godsick told them. “You can’t leave the U.S. without signing this representation agreement. Otherwise, I am not going to have a job on Thursday.”
The deal got done, and results came quickly. Mr. Federer signed long-term deals with Rolex, Mercedes, Lindt chocolate and Credit Suisse over the next few years.
Mr. Godsick left IMG in 2012. In December of the next year, he announced that he was starting his own agency, taking with him Mr. Federer as both client and business partner. (The other two founding partners in Team8 are Ian McKinnon and Dirk Ziff. The name is a play on the word “teammate,” and a nod to the importance of the number 8 in China, where Mr. Federer is a huge star.)
Its initial clients, besides Mr. Federer, were the tennis players Juan Martín del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov. Mr. del Potro remains a client; Mr. Dimitrov, who at one point seemed on the verge of breaking into the top tier of players but who has since faded, left in 2017. The firm has since added Henrik Lundqvist, the hockey star, and Cori Gauff, a rising junior tennis player.
Mr. Godsick said that he had been thinking about leaving IMG for some time, and that he told Mr. Forstmann in 2010: “Ted, you know I am never going to own this company. I want to do my own thing.” (Mr. Forstmann died in 2011, but Mr. Godsick stuck to his commitment to wait two years before going out on his own.)
Did his new partner, Mr. Federer, not have any qualms about leaving one of the biggest sports agencies in the world for an untested boutique firm where he would also be part of management?
“I didn’t worry about leaving IMG, to be honest, because I had done it once before,” Mr. Federer said. “That taught me a lot about the business. It made me want to care about that side of my career. To build something with Tony, along with our other partners, who were also good friends of mine, felt very exciting.”
Moreover, he felt the time was right. “By then I was an experienced player, an experienced person,” he said. “At that point in my career I was able to sit in a room and discuss business, or entrepreneurial opportunities, and then walk out of that room, onto center court, and play a match. ”
Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue and a close friend of Mr. Federer’s for 15 years, said she was not surprised that he had wanted to take a more active role in managing his career, or that he had found a compatible partner in Mr. Godsick.
“They are very aligned in the way they both approach business and the world at large,” she said. “They are strategic thinkers — taking the long view, never looking for a quick fix.”
Beyond the Tennis Court
It was also a point in Mr. Federer’s career when he was expanding beyond the tennis court: increasing his involvement in the foundation he and his family founded in 2003 and looking for entrepreneurial projects he could develop, like the Laver Cup he and Mr. Godsick launched last year. (The second installment will take place later this month in Chicago.) And then, of course, there was his deepening interest in fashion, encouraged by Ms. Wintour. In 2017, Mr. Federer attended the Met Gala, which Ms. Wintour oversees, in a Gucci tuxedo with a giant rhinestone cobra on the back. He has also sat in the front row of fashion shows by Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen, and gotten more involved in the design of the clothes he wears, both on and off the court.
Mr. Federer at a Marc Jacobs fashion show in 2006 with Mirka and Ms. Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue.
At the 2017 Met Gala, Mr. Federer, accompanied by his wife, wore a tuxedo designed by the Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele.
With Uniqlo, he will work closely with the in-house designer, Christophe Lemaire, formerly of Hermès. For the U.S. Open, Mr. Federer wore two new outfits that gave a hint of what’s to come: head-to-toe burgundy the first night, followed by a white shirt and burgundy shorts for his second and third matches.
“Roger has a measured, thoughtful persona, not given to showiness or flash,” Ms. Wintour said. “And his partnership with Uniqlo, perhaps a bit surprising to the tennis world, will allow him to work with the brand to innovate and design, as well as to effect positive change globally — a priority of his.”
“When the Open is over, we will talk,” Mr. Federer said of his next meeting with Mr. Lemaire and the design team at Uniqlo. “To see what direction we want to go in, in terms of color and designs and prints patterns. And also I want to find out just how many different outfits they want me to wear during the season. If they want me to wear just one outfit the entire season, then it will be very simple, but if they want to wear 10 outfits, then we obviously have a lot of work to do.”
Mr. Federer said of Uniqlo: “To me, if felt like they didn’t see me as a falling star, but a star that is always going to be up there, shining brightly.”
Of course, the 10-year deal — which will also involve the design of “life-wear,” as Mr. Federer calls his non-tennis attire — will take him well beyond his playing days.
And so the inevitable question: When will the end of those playing days come?
“I’ve been asked about retirement for nine years, so I’ve gotten used to that question,” he said last Sunday. “And, in a way, I can’t wait until I am retired, to see what my life is going to be like.
“But I don’t think about it too hard or too much, and I don’t really care what other people think about what I might do — or what I should do — or what my value is. I think I know what my value is.”