N E W Y O R K, June 12, 2001 -- Martina Hingis, the world's top-ranked female
tennis star, has filed a $40 million lawsuit charging that an
Italian sportswear maker whose products she endorsed gave her shoes
that injured her feet.
Hingis, 20, of Switzerland, says in court papers that intournaments from 1996 into 1999, she wore clothing and shoes madeby Sergio Tacchini as part of a five-year endorsement deal that wasto pay her $5.6 million. Hingis was forced to withdraw from several tournaments, becauseTacchini outfitted her with "defective" shoes "unsuitable forcompetition," court papers say.
Star Suffered Foot Injury
While competing in tennis' U.S. Open tournament in New York Cityin September 1998, Hingis suffered a debilitating foot injury, saypapers filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court. Hingis had her feet examined by a Manhattan doctor, "whoconfirmed that the injury was a chronic one and was being caused bythe tennis shoes manufactured by the defendant Sergio Tacchini,"court papers say. "The shoes were defectively designed and manufactured andtherefore were not providing Hingis with the support necessary toplay competitive tennis," according to Hingis' court papers, filedFriday. In October 1998, Hingis withdrew from tennis tournaments inFilderstadt, Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland. That same month, shehad her feet examined by an orthopedic specialist — recommended byTacchini — in Milan, Italy. The doctor recommended that Tacchini modify Hingis' shoes, butthe company, headquartered in Novara, Italy, failed to do so, courtpapers say. Hingis also withdrew from the Wimbledon doubles tournament inJune 1999 because of her injured feet, the suit says.
Hingis Canned as Spokeswoman
Then, in a letter dated April 23, 1999, Tacchini fired Hingis asa spokeswoman. Court papers said the company "erroneously"claimed she had breached their contract by failing to wear aTacchini hat at a tournament and other Tacchini tennis clothing ata charity event. In a news release that Hingis' court papers called "false anddefamatory," company chairman Sergio Tacchini explained why shewas dropped. "She damaged our image and our products because of her behaviorand extremely discrediting statements concerning her mainsponsor," court papers quote Tacchini as saying. "We could nottolerate this attitude any longer." There was no listed representative for Tacchini in NorthAmerica.