The following is from 'THE CONVERSATION'
The bottom lineTo cut to the chase, it costs the average tennis player in the order of $US160,000 per year to compete (once coaching costs are factored in). In 2013 only around 150 players made enough money to “break even” from prize-money alone.
Let’s think about that for a minute. More than 75 million people play tennis globally, and only about 160 men and 150 women earn enough prize-money to cover the cost of playing professionally.
So your chances of making money out of the game as a professional player are about one in 250,000.
Compare that to domestic sport such as the Australian Football League (AFL). There are 18 teams, each of which needs at the very least 38 players on its primary list. Given that it’s estimated that just under 1 million people play AFL, your chances of making a living in AFL are comparatively greater, at one in about 1,500!
Being a pro tennis player is like running a small business. Prize-money is not tax-free income, and you’re generally not backed by a club.
So unless your ranking belongs in the upper echelons of the sport, you likely have to pay for your own coaching and training staff as well as flights, accommodation, medical expenses, balls, rackets, strings etc. All that doesn’t come cheap.
An opportunity for changeIt’s not the intention here to be critical of the tall poppies of our sport. Who could argue that what the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, bring to the sport is not worth the investment or cost?
Despite the commercial prerogative, some thought does need to be given to the viability of a tour where almost all the prize-money goes to a handful of people, who in some cases don’t rely on prize-money to sustain their career anyway.
Unfortunately, most of the time, nobody cares much about the 160th and 150th-best male and female tennis players, which is a shame because they have to be ridiculously good tennis players to outperform the other 74,999,850 odd people who pick up a racket.
If you think grand-slam finals are tense, it’s nothing compared to final-round qualifying where entire livelihoods are on the line.
But with recent announcements of prize-money increases, grand slams have an opportunity to continue to distribute growing amounts of prize-money to those who exit earlier in the tournament.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to reward players who “turn up and lose first round”, the bottom line is that if talent is lost simply because people can’t pay the bills, the sport and fans suffer in the long term.