Panini signs top-ranked tennis star Jannik Sinner to multi-year deal

Tennis card releases have been few and far between in recent years

Cover Image for Panini signs top-ranked tennis star Jannik Sinner to multi-year deal
Panini America has signed top-ranked tennis player Jannik Sinner to a multi-year trading card deal. (Credit: Getty)

Panini will mark the start of its exclusive, multi-year agreement with ATP men's world No. 1 player Jannik Sinner with the release of a Panini Instant card Tuesday.

The agreement, which includes collectible trading cards, autographed memorabilia, game gear, books and magazines, as well as digital collections, is not the first time Panini has teamed up with Sinner, having previously featured the young star in multiple comic books.

Sinner's base Panini Instant card will retail for $9.99. (Credit: Panini)
Sinner's base Panini Instant card will retail for $9.99. (Credit: Panini)

“I’m really happy with this partnership with Panini,” said Sinner in a release. “As a child I collected stickers and read Panini comics and magazines. Now, I become the subject of Panini products and this makes me happy, because it gives me the opportunity to present myself to my fans in a different way.”

Sinner's Panini Instant base card will be available live on Panini's website beginning at 11 a.m. ET at $9.99 each.

A 20-year agreement between Fanatics Collectibles and Winners Alliance, the for-profit affiliate of the Professional Tennis Players Association, has made the future of licensed tennis cards murky.

Tennis players exist as independent contractors, split between the ATP and WTA Players' Councils and the PTPA. While the PTPA, founded by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil in 2020, is the first player-only association in tennis since 1972, several high-profile players have spoken out against joining.

The list, which includes the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Simona Halep, have stated the organization created more division than unity. When they publicly opposed joining, the PTPA was for male players only, the organization now represents both the ATP and WTA.

Its list of members, in large part, remain private. In 2023, Topps released a set of Topps Chrome tennis cards highlighted by current stars such as Coco Gauff, Frances Tiafoe and Madison Keys, as well as former greats Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Rod Laver.

The set did not include Djokovic, which would imply the release had yet to fully tap into the PTPA deal.

Tennis card releases have been few and far between in recent years. The most successful and enduring set came in 2003 with the release of NetPro’s tennis set, which included rookie cards of Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Federer, Nadal, Andy Roddick and more.

The reason for the lack of tennis cards, at least in part, is a result of the difficulty which accompanies negotiating individually with each player on the WTA and ATP Tours, many of whom are represented by completely different agencies — though, with the advent of the PTPA, this could change.

In 2022, NetPro made a triumphant return, securing a licensing deal with Carlos Alcaraz. NetPro offered individual cards of the phenom on its online shop in September 2022.

Offering multiple variations priced between $42 (base cards numbered to 2,000) and $3,600 (patch autograph cards numbered to 50), the NetPro site crashed within minutes. Ultimately, the cards sold out in a matter of days, netting $1.39 million in primary sales, according to Altan Insights. Alcaraz went on to win his first major title at the U.S. Open just days later.

As recently as September 2023, Djokovic stated publicly he wanted to speak with Alcaraz about the state of tennis and convince him to join the PTPA.

Sources tell cllct Alcaraz is not a member of PTPA, and, given Panini’s recent announcement of its signing of Sinner, it’s clear card companies are looking to replicate the success of NetPro’s 2022 release by signing individual players, even if full sets of multi-player packs may prove difficult.

If there is a bidding war for individual player licenses, Alcaraz would likely command the highest premium. The financial terms of Panini's deal with Sinner have not been disclosed.

In response to the announcement of Fanatics Collectibles' 20-year deal with the PTPA, NetPro replied on Twitter: “This is great news for the sport…It will help drive interest to their first officially licensed rookie cards as well from 2003 and 2022. We may be a small company, but we will still work hard at securing contracts and releasing new quality cards. Congrats to Topps and the players.”

NetPro has not replied to a request for comment on the status or longevity of its deal with Alcaraz, and whether collectors can expect future releases from the company and the 21-year-old phenom, who is coming off of his third Slam title at the French Open.

All of the most expensive sales of tennis cards in history belong to either the 2003 NetPro release or the company’s 2022 release of Alcaraz cards. This includes the most expensive sports card ever sold for a female athlete, a 2003 NetPro International Series Authentic Apparel #2A Serena Williams Signed Patch Rookie Card /100 (PSA 8 / Auto 10) that sold for $266,400 in May 2022.

A Federer card from the same release fetched $181,200 in May 2021, while the most expensive Alcaraz card ever sold, a 2022 NetPro International Series '03 Retro Autograph Memorabilia #1A Carlos Alcaraz Signed Match-Worn Relic Rookie Card /50 (PSA 8 / Auto 10) sold for $32,400 in September 2022.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.