Professional tennis players feel they need to be receiving a greater percentage from the money pit and that players wallowing in the rankings should be able to make a better financial go of things. Craig Gabriel writes that players might want to take stock.


“1.3 billion people watch it, yet we can’t have more than 400 people living from this sport, both men and women. I think we have to put that in our mind and really think about whether this sport is doing great or not,” Novak Djokovic said about the state of tennis.

A major question relating to what Novak has said is do the respective tours, the ATP and WTA, or the four majors for that matter, owe any player a job?

It is very easy to make comments and create an issue about the fact that it is very difficult for a player below a certain ranking to make money, or rather make a living playing tennis professionally. Absolutely it is unfortunate, especially when there are so many lower ranked players with a dream and give it all they have to make it.

The boulevard of dreams is full of actors and actresses trying hard to make it in that profession and instead they are waiting on tables or doing menial jobs in an effort to make ends meet. Not for a moment is that being suggested for tennis players but it is put forward as a comparison. Professional tennis is not the only career where it is a struggle to make ends meet.

It is very easy for people to say that tennis players should receive a greater cut of the money pie, but does anyone really consider what it takes to stage a tournament, whether it be a Challenger, a 1000 or a major? Certainly, there are a lot of funds earned, but a vast percentage of those dollars are ploughed back into the tournament.

There is the prize money that must be paid. The maintenance of the facility. The set-up of the facility. Transport that is provided. Players receive accommodation costs paid and when you are staying at five-star hotels as is the case at a 1000 like the BNP Paribas Open, that is one heck of a bill. Just as an example a regular standard hotel not too far from the tournament site is $550 a night while one a little further away is still $200 a night. Start adding up those sorts of figures.

Tournaments have to pay their staff, volunteers need to be fed, tournaments also pay a hefty administration fee to the ATP or WTA which goes towards covering the on-site services the tours provide such as physiotherapists, supervisors, officials, communication personnel. When it comes to the majors, they provide funds to the International Tennis Federation which is directed to grassroots tennis.


Let’s not blame the tournaments for the prize money levels that are paid. It is not their determination; the breakdowns are the determination of the respective tours. The ATP and WTA decide what the first-round payment will be and what a new champion will receive.

If the PTPA, the player association that was created by Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil feel that the distribution is unfair and that money levels need to be more balanced, then they should be proactive and produce a breakdown level for prizemoney. Sure, they are not in a position of power to put it into practice but at least create it and let’s see what they would present.

It cannot be ignored that players who have had the results, the big wins and the important titles alongside their names are rewarded the most because those are the players the public want to see. Like with the movies, one would be way more inclined to watch a movie that stars Julia Roberts or maybe Brad Pitt than Jane Black or John Smith.

Professional tennis is a business and as a business it is not there to make a loss or just break even. You need to make a profit to continue surviving to be able to keep going year after year and in doing so provide jobs for players. However, at the same time it is not possible, as is the case in any business, to provide jobs for everyone.

Tennis is a blindingly expensive sport to stage and host. It’s very easy to say players need to get a greater cut of the takings, but maybe players need to be educated a lot better about what goes on behind the scenes that create the environment that allows a great number of them be showcased.

Djokovic says we need to “really think about whether this sport is doing great or not”. Maybe it is a case of the players needing to take a closer look inside themselves and think what they can do better to also promote their sport further. Take more of a responsibility. Go back to the future and repeat how hard players in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s worked to really promote the sport.

Because 1.3billion people watch it, does not mean tennis is earning a dollar from each of those 1.3billion people. Oh, and one other thing, let's stop comparing tennis to any other sport, it's like comparing apples to oranges.