Tag Heuer – Next Gen timepiece

In the tennis watch sponsorship sweepstakes, the Tag Heuer brand is building from the Next Gen up.

The Swiss watchmaker is a sponsor at the Next Gen Finals in Milan.

And it already had rising stars Denis Shapovalov of Canada and Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. before adding 18-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime at this Australian Open.

The company unveiled its stable of ambassadors (and their timepieces) at an event at the start of the tournament with Auger-Aliassime (18), Hyeon Chung (22), Olga Danilovic (17), Tiafoe (20) and Shapovalov (19). 

Romania’s Ana Bogdan, 26, is sort of the outlier in the pic.

Hydrogen makes a move with Berdych

The Italian brand Hydrogen, which until now has had Fabio Fognini as its star endorsee, is loading up.

Fognini left for Emporio Armani. He’ll promote their sportswear with wife Flavia Pennetta.

Meanwhile, Hydrogen has added some fine-looking tennis players. Tomas Berdych (long with Nike, returning from injury), Feliciano Lopez (his final year), Dustin Brown and Adrian Mannarino among them.

Lopez had been with Ellesse. Fellow Ellesser Monica Puig wore it at the Hawaii Open exhibition. But she wore a Yonex top in a recent pic (since deleted), and she may be gone, too.

Tsitsipas joins Next-Gen watchmen

Hyeon Chung was probably the first of the next generation to get the almost-mandatory watch deal, as Rado began supporting him in 2015.

Alexander Zverev, then 19, followed in Rafael Nadal’s footsteps with a pricey Richard Mille in June, 2016.

In Oct. 2017, 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov became a “friend of the brand” for Tag Heuer.

The most recent Next-Gen watchman came last week, as Stefanos Tsitsipas joined the Rolex tennis family headed by Roger Federer.

He’s already done the photo shoot for the most iconic of all the brands.

After the year he had, you’d expect more to come.

Newlywed Groenefeld re-teams with King

There will be lots of “new” for doubles specialist Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

The 33-year-old German will head Down Under as a newlywed, having married longtime coach Ingo Herzgerodt, 47.

She’ll also have a new partner, American Vania King. She and Kind won Quebec City in 2008 and reached the 2009 Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Aussie Daria Gavrilova and longtime love, fellow Aussie player Luke Saville, got engaged over the off-season.

The two, who both will turn 25 early in 2019, are literally childhood sweethearts. Gavrilova, then a Russian, began dating Saville, the 2011 Wimbledon and 2012 Aussie Open junior champion, when she was just 15.

The Fogninis go all-out Armani

The family that poses for underwear ads together, stays together.

Fabio Fognini, 31, and Flavia Pennetta, 36, the Italian lovebirds who married in June, 2016 and had son Federico in May, 2017, are letting it all hang out.

The two are the new ambassadors for Emporio Armani and the EA7 sportswear collection.

There’s a kids’ collection, too.

Does that mean there might be a third Fognini embarking on a modelling career?

Doubtful.

The Fogninis have been extra careful never to show their young son’s face, despite all the pics they’ve posted of him.

Marcelo Rios sighting at IMG

Former No. 1 Marcelo Rios wrote on Instagram recently that he’s in better shape now than when he played – as evidenced by his muscled look.

But can he still play? The Chilean was spotted at the IMG Academy hitting tennis balls and, if the report is legit, looking good doing it.

Now 42, Rios (who said after his career he was twice diagnosed with Asperger’s, which could explain some of his behavior) lives in Sarasota, Fla. On his third marriage, seems to have found happiness.

He was training for an exhibition with Nicolas Lapentti in Chile Dec. 21.

Ski trip, honorary degree: Halep busy

Good times for world No. 1 Simona Halep as she hit Sölden, Austria last week.

Halep brought now-former coach Darren Cahill and physio Andrei Cristofor along.

Once she returned to Romania, the 26-year-old found herself bestowed with an honorary doctorate from West University of Timisoara for her achievements in tennis and her status as an ambassador for her country.

Must we call her “Dr. Halep now”.

First up in 2019 is Sydney. Halep is skipping Shenzhen the first week of the season, which she has played three of the last four years and won twice – including last year.

Elena Vesnina has a baby girl

After the most spectacularly gorgeous pregnancy on record (at least on Instagram), Russia’s Elena Vesnina announced the birth of a girl Tuesday.

“When you took your first breath, it took ours away,” she wrote.

Despite plenty of photos, Vesnina was able to keep her pregnancy off the radar until six weeks ago. Although a few people suspected, as her absence from the Tour continued.

Countrywoman Yaroslava Shvedova had twins six weeks ago. And another Russian, Vera Dushevina, is also a new mom.

Next up is countrywoman Alla Kudryavtseva, due in the next few weeks.

Happy Meal pays off for Bouchard

For Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, posing with the biggest Happy Meal ever paid off in more than calories.

McDonald’s clearly noticed the photo, posted in May before the French Open.

The Canadian arm of the company got hold of the address at her Miami residence and sent her a goodie box.

It included this … almost edible jean jacket and a pair of sweatpants.

That’s a pretty sweet jacket, actually.

Next up on the swag list: maybe the International House of Pancakes? Or possibly Cracker Barrel?

Chipotle for tennis players seems so passé, all of a sudden.

Cibulkova plays herself in Li Na movie

Fresh from a vacation in the Maldives, Dominika Cibulkova headed to Wuhan, China to make her acting debut.

The Slovak is playing herself as the Wuhan center court morphs into Rod Laver Arena for the long-awaited Li Na biopic.

Li defeated Cibulkova in the 2014 Australian Open final.

The detail is pretty good – at least with the outfits (see a comparison to the real thing here). And the knee tape.

The rackets are on brand, if not model.

Li doesn’t play herself. But what a great idea to use the real players as action stunt doubles