‘That’s with the NBA, MLB’: Billie Jean King, ATP Chairman, and Tennis Pros Talk About the Sad Side of Tennis

Published 12/15/2021, 9:30 AM EST
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 15: Team Serena consisting of Serena Williams of the USA, Dominic Thiem of Austria, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain look on during the Rally for Relief Bushfire Appeal event at Rod Laver Arena on January 15, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)


Ever since the global pandemic shook the world in 2020, the sport of tennis has struggled financially. Not only has the WTA struggled to make money, but the ATP has not had the best year either.

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Tennis professionals have suffered financially owing to the pandemic. However, even before 2020, the situation for lower-ranked players was not all that good.

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Lower-ranked tennis players can barely make ends meet

It is no secret that the top few players are the ones who get paid the most. “It’s the top three or four men and women that drive ticket sales,” Billie Jean King, founder of the WTA said.

MALAKOFF, FRANCE – MAY 23: Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Roger Federer attend the Nike Night Tennis mixed doubles presentation on May 23, 2013 in Malakoff, France. (Photo by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/Getty Images)

The top tennis players earn millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorship deals. Conversely, lower-ranked players get very little help. At best, they get grassroots funding or free rackets and apparel through social media promotion.

However, the majority of their earnings come from winning matches only. From the top 500, almost 1/4th of the men and 1/3rd earned less than $50,000 this year.

 

Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the ATP, very clearly states the truth about the current monetary situation in tennis. “At the moment, the total revenue generated and what we distribute in prize money, doesn’t allow for the second tier to have players that can make a living and sustain the cost.”

Some players, like World No. 128 Liam Brody, agree that the biggest and best players should get the bigger rewards. However, he voices out his opinion through a suggestion, too. “But just maybe (give them) a little bit less and they share the rest of the money.”

The ATP and the WTA are looking to merge

Dave Haggerty, the president of the International Tennis Federation, opines that tennis stakeholders have made real efforts “in distributing the money so that more players are able to make proper earning.”

Billie Jean King wishes to have 700-800 players earning well in tennis. “That would make me happy because that’s with the NBA. That’s Major League Baseball,” she says.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 01: Serena Williams of the United States and Roger Federer of Switzerland are interviewed on court following their mixed doubles match during day four of the 2019 Hopman Cup at RAC Arena on January 01, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Gaudenzi talks about a potential merger between the men’s and women’s tours. “I’m a very strong believer that the two tools should be combined because together we are stronger,” he says. Haggerty echoes his belief by saying, “We shouldn’t be competing with one another, we should be competing with the outside world.”

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Earlier this month, the ATP hired financial advisors Rothschild to aid discussions for the merger. Similarly, the WTA has hired Allen & Co. for the same.

DIVE DEEPER: Roger Federer’s ATP-WTA Merger Proposal Makes Huge Waves After $600M Support

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Samarveer Singh

252 articles

Samarveer Singh is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. Holding a degree in English Literature and a diploma in Fitness Sciences and Training, Samarveer is obsessed with tennis and basketball. A collegiate athlete himself, he admires all sportspersons who put in the work in order to achieve excellence.

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