How Much Do Professional Tennis Players Make

At some point in your life, you have watched a professional tennis match showing a grand slam like Wimbledon or the US Open and have thought that these guys must make a fortune. 

And you are probably right! They are filthy rich, but here’s the thing, behind every top player on T.V. whose name you recognize, there are 100’s if not 1000’s of unknown grinding it out in the tennis world. Playing tournament after tournament, week after week, vying for that spot on your TV. 

Just how much does a player, say rank 1700 make? How about a semi-successful player ranked 250 in the world? And that player on your TV, the one who won the Wimbledon, how rich is he?

The answers behind all of these might surprise you, as we are not only diving into prize money from the tournaments also sponsorships, endorsements, part-time jobs while on tour, everything.

The Economics of Being a Professional Tennis Player

Far away from the glitz and glamour of the Grand Slam tournaments, you may find 1700th ranked players competing on the hard courts of the Men’s 15k Futures event in Norman, Oklahoma, an event hard-pressed to many spectators. You will find these players grinding it out on their free days in futures tournaments across the country. The lowest rung of professional tennis. 

I say free days because although they might be considered a professional tennis player, participants at this level typically lose money by competing professionally. Thus, necessitating a part-time or a full-time job to cover the cost. 

What exactly does it cost to compete at these kinds of events and how much income from playing can they expect? 

Firstly, to cover all costs associated with being a professional tennis player, they have to work an entry-level job, for example, let’s say an Investor Relations at a hedge fund paying approximately $61,000 according to payscale.com.
Here’s what the average cost for low ranked tennis professional looks like, to participate in a single tournament. Approximately $700 for flights, $240 on food, $430 for accommodations and a $40 entry fee to the tournament, totalling $1410 as a typical figure.  

As you can imagine, a player such as this travels coach, shares room with another player and probably can be picky when it comes to food options. The low ranked players are occasionally offered free temporary housing by either the tournament or locals in the community. This is seldom to case and the cost of playing these types of tournaments almost often results in a net financial loss for the player. Even tougher for a player ranked 1700 as this only guarantees them a spot only in the qualifying draw. This means that even he was to win a round or two in qualifying, he is not guaranteed any prize money or ranking points.
Finally, most players dead set on making it in the professional circuit invest in a coach, who travels with them to the tournaments, typically costing $500 plus expenses. Though many players travel in groups of 2 or 3 and split the cost, even this is out of some peoples budget and they get by with practice partners or jumping in fellow players coaching sessions on occasion. 

Let’s take Abraham Asaba as an example, using his 2019’s result in the Norman Open. That year he competed in both the single’s and double’s draws of the tournament. Beginning in singles qualifying, he won the sole match needed to qualify for the main draw and continued his run by winning his first-round match before falling in the second round. 

His prize for that week’s efforts? $258. His doubles take home was even more disappointing, as a first-round loss only netted him $54 personally, totalling his week at $312. Considering the projected expenses, it’s easy to see why the path to start in professional tennis is so daunting without the financial resources keeping you afloat until you make it. Even more daunting to consider, Asaba played at the singles draw at 16 tournaments throughout North America in 2019 and only made any money at 3 of them. In fact, totalling his combined 2019 singles and doubles earnings he made $2,270 playing professional tennis in 2019. Using the projected figure of $1410 per tournament, and assuming that he has no sponsors or federations helping to fund his career, Asaba’s net income in 2019 was $20,258. Yikes!

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom as a professional tennis player. Deep runs in futures tournaments can earn you enough ranking points to qualify for ATP challenger tournaments. Tournaments that can draw small crowds of local tennis fans, where prize money and ranking points are given can earn a player enough money to break even on the international travel needed. 

 

At the 2019 Oracle Challenger Series, you would have found 195th ranked Noah Rubin who at 23 made a full-time living competing professionally. A junior prodigy won junior boys Wimbledon in 2014, Rubin had significantly better coaching opportunities as a child than a player like Asaba. A parental investment many forget to factor in when examining the financial picture of a burgeoning professional. 

In fact for a player like Rubin, the Lawn Tennis Association estimates that it cost $ 385,000 to develop a player from age 5 to 18 years old. Though many wonderkids get financial assistance from the countries tennis federation, clothing and racket sponsors and private tennis academies such as the John McEnroe Tennis Academy that Rubin received a scholarship to attend as a teenager. 

As an adult, his travel cost per tournament is similar to a much lower-ranked player like Asaba. But considering tennis is a full-time career, he doesn’t have a second job to fall back on and travels to twice as many tournaments per year. Typically at least 30 in an attempt to secure as many ranking points as possible. 

Although a success thus far was in part to having a full-time private coach on hand during tournaments. He stopped with tournament coaching in 2019, as he was not making enough money to afford the cost. Professional coaching at his level cost $1800 to $3000 per week excluding travel expenses. 

Using his 2019 Oracle Challenger Series as an example, he had a successful singles main draw run to the semi-finals, winning 4 straight matches before bowing out and earned $7,530 as a total result as he did not play in the doubles draw that week. 

Positive results such as this help balance out poor results at other challenger events, where he many times also loses money by competing. 

The silver lining for a player with his ranking is the occasional qualification into main draw ATP tour events, where even if he is lucky, he a spot in the main draw of a grand slam tournament. A 2nd round loss to Roger Federer in the 2017 Australian Open earned him a cool $80,000 AUD for one week’s work. 

Totalling his 2019 season, he earned a combined total of $169,000 in tournament prize money. Rubin has sponsored for clothing, rackets and strings, and those not known publicly, how much he is paid for these or any other promotion work. 92nd Ranked Micheal Russell revealed in 2013 that he was paid $60,000 in sponsorships and exhibitions. So let’s wildly assume $30,000 for 195th ranked Rubin as a ballpark average. 

Though $200,000 in combined earning seems like a dream to many, he revealed his 2019 take home after all expenses and taxes was around $60,000, even if he is among one of the best tennis players in the world.

With that said, a player who makes it through the minor league tournaments and performs well at the big events is handsomely compensated for their efforts. As wealth in tennis is undoubtedly concentrated at the very top and you probably won’t be surprised that I’m not just talking about tournament prize money. 

Beginning with their main source of income (Prize Money), top players will do far better than break even financially at ATP tour events. Though a challenger title win is a major monetary driver for many lower-ranked players. That sum pales in comparison to what a player would make just to lose in the Miami Master or better yet, an event like Wimbledon, where a win is comparable to what many top athletes make in an entire years salary. 

Daniil Medvedev’s breakthrough 2019 season saw him win over $7 million in prize money alone. An amount that placed him in that year’s top earners. 

Many aren’t aware of the bonuses that many top players receive including an ATP tour bonus of at least $160,000 for finishing within the top 12 and the guaranteed appearance fee of $191,000 for qualification and participation in the ATP finals. A highly exclusive title that Stefanos Tsitsipas took home last year with $2.6 million in total for 5 matches work. 

As many would guess, top players partner with high-end brands, whose lucrative sponsorship deals many times exceed tournament prize money earnings. In the extreme case of Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori, though a late-season injury capped his 2019 winnings at a relatively modest $2.4 million sum. His marketing appeal in Japan landed him brand deals with Nike, Wilson, Uniqlo, Japan Airlines, Jaguar and many other massive Japanese corporations, netting Kei an additional $31 million in just sponsorships alone. 

As you can imagine, stars who have reached the pinnacle of success are paid generously just to show up. An organized exhibition such as the BNP Paribas Showdown or Match For Africa employee top players who can command a record number of spectators. In 2015’s Back to Thailand event, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal shared1.5 million for their participation in a 2-hour friendly match. 

Surprisingly ATP tournaments will also pay top dollars for big-name players to compete in their event. So if you ever wondered how a small 250 tournament in Stuttgart, Germany gets Roger Federer to sign up. It might have something to do with his reported $1 million appearance fee. 

So although it’s difficult to wonder why so many young players aspire to be professional tennis players, when the odds of success are so small. A look at the mind-boggling amount of money that flows at the very top is enticing enough for anyone to consider the possibility of making the futures tournaments their second job. 

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