Alcaraz cards

Editor's Note: This story was first published on September 3, 2022. As of September 9, 2022, every Alcaraz card was sold out at NetPro's official online shop. By September 11, Alcaraz clinched his first major title at the US Open to cement his rise to world No. 1. Some investors have cashed in with significant ROIs on secondary markets like eBay. One example: an autographed apparel retro card originally priced $3,600 was sold for $21,000 in a best offer sale.

At the 2021 US Open, then 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz electrified the tennis world when he outlasted third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tiebreaker. It was a match that furthered conversations within the sport that Alcaraz had future world No. 1 and major champion written all over him.

For one person watching that day, it was the moment that solidified his decision to bring back a product that had been off the market for nearly 20 years—NetPro tennis trading cards.

Today, NetPro is responsible for some of the most sought-after cards on the market. In May, a graded Serena Williams signed apparel card from its 2003 International series sold for $266,400, a record for a card boasting a female athlete. A year earlier, a graded Roger Federer autographed apparel card numbered to 25 went for $181,200. Rookie cards from the short-printed 2003 Glossy set, featuring Serena, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams, have also proven worthy returns on investment for collectors.

In 2003, after his hopes of a professional baseball career ended, Kris Vigue took on the role of managing product distribution for NetPro. His trips brought him to several international destinations, and as he engaged with clients across the globe, one aspect stood out: buyers were first and foremost lovers of tennis.

“This is why you don't see many cards over the last 20 years. It's very different from other sets,” Vigue tells Baseline. “The people who are buying these back in 2003, they were just tennis fans. They just wanted the nice photography, their favorite player on the card and tucked them away.”

That tucking away extended to the business front, too. While those opening wax packs from any of the 2003 sets were treated to cards featuring the Williams sisters, Roger and Rafa, Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis, Andy Roddick, Anna Kournikova, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Lleyton Hewitt, the process of featuring every one of those names in a licensed product is a highly underappreciated one.


Approaching players involves countless individual pitches, as there aren’t one or two agencies representing everyone on the WTA and ATP Tours. Negotiations for the fee on licensing the player’s name and likeness can go back and forth for months. Photos require agent approval before the design phase begins. If insert cards feature match-used memorabilia, that requires additional time and layout consideration. Printing doesn’t just happen with a simple PDF; there are delicate steps involving foil laminating, mounting and laser cutting to achieve the finished product.

“It's a difficult project to get started. Over the years, it just wasn't the right timing to bring back, and then we basically disappeared. The last year, I just took over full steam ahead with the hopes of getting things going again,” shares Vigue.

Shifting strategies, Vigue’s ambition to relaunch NetPro evolved into an exclusive player release format. There was one all-important detail to work out: with whom? Along came Carlitos and the US Open. In what proved to be the year of the teenager at Flushing Meadows, Alcaraz and the aura around him took the American by surprise in the best way possible. He had found his proverbial ace.

“I had no idea. He was never on the radar or anything like that, that's just how it happened,” says Vigue. “I personally am almost acting like a scout when I'm doing this. While I’m looking for their physical skills, for me, it's mainly about the intangibles. It's how they carry it themselves. When I saw Carlos, I knew he was something special. He's already had an incredible start to his future and I just thought, ‘he's going to be a Grand Slam champion for years to come.’”

Following that epiphany, Vigue reached out. By February, he was working with Alcaraz’s management team to get a deal inked. Two months later, an agreement was reached. The sides selected images from Alcaraz’s strong European clay-court swing, and a Nike shirt the Spaniard wore during the 2022 French Open was sent off for cutting. In total, 9 different variations were produced: four base rookie cards, three signed apparel rookie cards and two autographed rookie cards. The biggest hurdle left was to get on the printer while Alcaraz’s tour travels had him competing in North America.

“Simply due the lingering effects from the pandemic, with shortages of paper supplies and the backlog of the major companies, our printer told us they had over 60 million cards in production alone,” Vigue explained.

Alcaraz and Vigue completed the process in mid-August.

Alcaraz and Vigue completed the process in mid-August.


In the end, all worked out. Vigue and his wife traveled to Mason, Ohio to complete the last piece of the puzzle. In between Western & Southern Open commitments, Alcaraz rocked out 600 on-card signatures. He even selected one from the inaugural limitless collection to take with him as a parting gift.

When the online shop went live the following week, Vigue thought he was prepared for sales. He completely underestimated the demand.

NetPro’s website crashed within 15 minutes, forcing the small-business owner to act quickly in buying a new host and server. Once back up, the first card to sell out was the most expensive of the lot: the “retro” variation autographed jersey card limited to 50 (paying homage to the 2003 look) at $3,600 per card. If users were questioning the pricing structure upon seeing it, the demand said otherwise, with nearly 1500 orders placed after the first 72 hours.

“To do something like this, it's incredibly expensive,” says Vigue. “I know it turned off some people, but I just had a feeling the market was going to be able to absorb that. I still feel long term, they're incredible buys if Carlos achieves even a fraction of what we think he can.”

As Vigue meticulously reviews and hand packs each order—which has seen him devote 16 to 18 hours a day to meet the estimated delivery windows—Alcaraz is back in the third round of the US Open. In a full-circle tale, 12 months later he’s the No. 3 seed primed for a Grand Slam breakthrough up against a rising unseeded talent in Jenson Brooksby.

While time will soon tell if this fortnight yields a major moment for the 19-year-old, Vigue is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the budding star on such a personal endeavor.

“Carlos hasn't really lost that innocent kid love for the game and everything that comes with it. He’s so mature, as well,” he reflects. “My time with Carlos during the on-card signings solidified my belief in that he is going to achieve all of his goals on and off the court. It was an honor to work with him and to be able to add my little piece to tennis history.”