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Maria v Feuerstein: It just doesn't add up
Life on the Tour is not all rosy. Not everyone is as fortunate as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams. In startling results from a study, if you are not a top-50 player in world tennis, chances are you are struggling to make ends meet.
Beneath the haloed glow of fame of current day world tennis, lie the embers of hardfought sustenance for a large pool of players, trying to make a living in a sport that can demand more than it commands. Tennis professionals, save for those who climb the upper tiers of the sport, often find themselves stretched to balance accounts, where expenses can outweigh income.
Recent analysis from both the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women's Tennis Association show only a worrying 10 per cent of the 1, 800 male and 1, 400 female professionals make a good living off the sport. Sergiy Stakhovsky, the 27-year-old Ukranian, who lives in Bratislava, ranked 102nd in the world, puts it simply, "A player ranked outside the top-20 often has no other source of income outside his prize-money. "
Men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic took home 9. 7 million euros in prize-money while his female counterpart, Victoria Azarenka won 6 million. Then there are the sponsorship deals, appearance money and exhibition tournaments that further cushion their bank balances. In contrast, players ranked between 90 and 100 in the world won on an average 202, 970 euros in prize-money last year, the figure dropped to 75, 000 euros for the 150th ranked player and dwindled down to 20, 780 euros for the 200th-ranked player. Again, it's not like the whole packet is take home. While tax alone can bite up to 30 per cent, other expenses like salaries of coach and trainer besides travel, boarding and lodging add to the expenditure. Players ranked lower down the pecking order are often stretched to break even.
Interestingly, the 6 ft 8 inch Pole Jerzy Janowicz, ranked 26th in the world and Somdev Devvarman's conqueror in the Australian Open second round recently, said he didn't compete in the season-opening Grand Slam last year because he couldn't afford the trip Down Under. Janowicz, aged 26, was ranked a lowly 221 at the end of the 2011 season.
The Pole said: "I played the 2010 qualifying competition of the Australian Open, but last year I couldn't come here because I didn't have enough money. " Janowicz instead sent in his entry for a $ 10, 000 ITF Futures tournament in Sheffield, England. "Now my situation is a little bit better. I have a sponsor. So it is much, much easier for me to play this Australian Open. I don't have to worry about money anymore. "
Of his much improved status, he's even seeded at the Australian Open, Janowicz said: "Now I don't have to worry about the travel. I can easily afford to buy business class tickets for trips, like to Australia. Now I don't have to worry about money for my coach. So it's much easier for me to play tennis now. "
World No. 53 Robin Haase, who went down to Andy Murray in the opening round of the Australian Open, said, "It's often a deceptive tale of earnings for players like me. While it may seem all rosy on the outside, it's often a struggle to make both ends meet when it comes to keeping up with the expenses of playing regularly on the tour. Hiring a personal coach can weigh heavily on one's purse strings. Often, sharing coaches with other players is the only way out. "
For Go Soeda too, it has been a road fraught with challenges. The Japanese pro, who broke into the top-50 last year, is currently ranked 73rd in the world. He nods and gives you a knowing smile when referred to as a 'journeyman. '
Soeda says: "It's not easy being a journeyman. Especially if one has to work alongside a tight-fisted national federation, like the Japanese body. Players like me have to keep busy on the circuit and play as much as we can, even if we do not win tournaments. A good showing will help us attract sponsors. " The 28 yearold, coached by Italian Davide Sanguinetti, however, adds that he is better placed than his counterparts in other south-east Asian countries.
The money scene is doubly tighter for players hailing from countries like Thailand, say the Ratiwatana twins Sonchat and Sanchai, whose individual doubles ranking stands at No. 67 in the world.
The 30-year-old Sonchat, pointing to the two logos on either side of his white t-shirt, says: "The government has never been supportive of the sport. Whatever comes our way is because of sponsors. But then, even they too have their limitations. Nothing comes without strings attached. "
The Ratiwatanas pointed at world No. 18 Kei Nishikori to underline their point of the Asian continent being rich in talent reserves. However, players hailing from Asia didn't enjoy the financial advantages or opportunities that American and European players had in terms of tournaments and sponsors which made the road that much easier for them.
Sonchat says: "Unlike players in the west, we do not have too many tournaments taking place in Asia. Then, it requires a lot of traveling to make it to other tournaments. " The Thai twins lost to the German duo of Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich in the semifinals of the Chennai Open earlier this month.
Sanchai says, "We have a coach from Panama who has been training us for the past one year. We train with our father sometimes. It's tough to maintain the expenses of a full-time coach's travel and stay. Though the money may be there on paper, we are left with very little once we've paid off all our bills. "
Late last year the Australian Open announced that it was upping its prize-money fund by 15 per cent to a whopping £ 19. 3 million ($31 million), with early round losers to benefit significantly. As it stands, the four Grand Slams give about 10-15 per cent of their revenue in prize-money. It is a small reward given that the regular tour events offer 20-30 per cent of revenue to the players, while other sports give up to 50 per cent. The leading players in the men's game -Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal - have been vocal in their demand for a bigger share of prize-money, not so much for themselves, for those down the pecking order.
World No. 99 Coco Vandeweghe went back richer by $ 29, 100 in spite of a first round loss in Melbourne. "It's not easy paying your expenses week in, week out and traveling all over the world. If you are top-100 in most other sports, you're making millions. That's not quite the case in tennis, "Vandeweghe said after her loss to 27th-seeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Agreeing that a players' boycott was the last thing they wanted, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said that they were mindful of the financial demands of sustaining oneself on the tour. "We've always had the view that tennis is a sport where if you're top 200 in the world, you should be the best in your profession, should have the opportunity to earn a living, support the cost of a coach, your own travel and be able to put some money away for your next career or retirement. That's what we're trying to address - to bring the pack closer. If you don't do that, then the best athletes are going to be attracted to the other sports. "
The players are determined to get more out of the tournaments. Given that it is the golden age of the men's game with the fab four - Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer - holding firm and providing unparalleled entertainment to fans, they should succeed. Late last year, Federer said what Melbourne offered was an improved purse, but were the players' satisfied? The Swiss superstar said, there was still work to be done. As the weeks go on, the players will press for their demands to be met. It's up to the tournaments to deliver.
MONEY DISPARITY IN WORLD TENNIS $100 MILLION (75, 658, 378 EUROS)
The combined approximate figure that Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova have raked in prize money in their careers so far.
Number of the 1, 800 male and 1, 400 female pros who are able to make a decent living in tennis
9. 7 MILLION EUROS
Prize money earned by men's No 1 Novak Djokovic in 2012.
6 MILLION EUROS
Earned by women's No 1 Victoria Azarenka
$ 20 MILLION
Maria Sharapova's extra annual income from endorsements.
2, 02, 970 EUROS
Average prize money won by players ranked between 90th and 100th in 2012
75, 000 EUROS
Prize money earned by 150th ranked player in 2012
20, 780 EUROS
Earned by the 200th-rated player.
Deducted in tax, while travel costs, food, hotels and the price of a coach take more away.
of the prize money and appearance money on average taken by top pros.
8, 00, 00 EUROS
The amount Roger Federer can command as appearance fee outside of a Grand Slam and the Masters series.
4, 13, 000
Appearance fee for Federer's hometown event at Basel, the only exception that the Swiss has made.
71, 317 EUROS
Earned by world No 130 Claire Feuerstein in 2012, by most counts considered a respectable return for a mid-100 s player.
Remaining in her account after taxes and other deductions.
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