Tennis needs the money to flow down hill

Players outside the top are struggling to play the game professionally due to prize money

So Marion Bartoli endures laddish stick from John Inverdale, puts a trembling Sabine Lisicki to the sword and walks away €183,350 richer for a fortnight at Wimbledon than Phil Mickelson did for winning the Scottish Open and British Open in successive weeks. That's no surprise to those in the lower rungs of tennis, where new racquet strings and food poisoning are more pressing than the fantasy of a staged warm down or massage session.

The Californian lefty earned €579, 080 for his Scottish Open win and €1,097,570 from Muirfield, while Bartoli took €1.86 million for her 1 hour 21 minute win over Lisicki.

What the crazy figures of Wimbledon mask are that the players ranked around 150-200 in the world and who don’t regularly appear on BBC or sell shaving foam or lip gloss around the Grand Slam events, are always broke unless they have other income streams.

New Zealand recently brought the Tennis Poor to the attention of the International Tennis Federation, when it held its AGM in Paris two weeks ago. There they circulated a proposal to all of the delegates in which they suggested that €15-€23 million be taken from the profits of the four Grand Slams and be used to increase prize money for Top 200 players so they can earn an appropriate living from professional tennis.

Economic sense
It was taken that the assumed yearly profits for the four Grand Slams was $200 (€151) million. Broken down that was $30 million (€23m) from the Australian Open, $40 million (€30m) from the French Open at Roland Garros, $60 million (€45m) from Wimbledon and $100 million (€75m) million from the US Open.


The Kiwis also compared prize money in tennis with that of golf and reluctantly noted that, given choice, it made more economical sense for an aspiring athlete to play golf. That was before career longevity was even considered.

The 400th ranked golfer on the money list earned $203,000 (€153,470) in 2011. To reach that kind of income in men’s tennis, a player in 2012 needed to be ranked 137 in the world and a woman needed to be ranked 107.

The Kiwis used the comparison with golf to show how the money alarmingly falls off in tennis after the 200 mark and how the game of Mickelson and McIlroy better catered for their entirety of players.

In 2012 the 200th ranked male on the ATP Tour earned $98,000 (€74,000). In golf the 200th ranked male that year earned $639,000 (€483,000). In 2012 the 250th male on the ATP Tour did not make any profit, while the equivalently ranked golfer made $461,000. Golf in fact kept on giving with the 300th ranked player earning $358,000 (€271,000) and the 350th male taking $264,000 (€200,000).

They also cited a 2010 Tennis Australia survey, which showed that a tennis player does not break even financially until they reach a world ranking of 129 for men and 92 for women.

Tennis NZ wants those extra millions of euro to go to prize funds for players ranked between 100 and 200 in the world. That would allow both the men and women ranked at that level of the game to earn between €75,000-€120,000 a year.

Hard earned profit
None of the tennis economics is helped either by the amount of time it takes for male players to reach the top 100, if they are good enough. From the first ranking point they ever earn, it then takes four to five years to climb to the 100 mark. Currently the average age of a top 100 tennis player is 27.

Do the kaisers of the game want to know? What is in it for the Lawn Tennis Association, who is handed Wimbledon's surplus, that a 196th ginger from Ireland or urchin from Bangkok is earning a living from their hard earned profit. What does it benefit French tennis that a portion of their loot flees the plush 16th arondissiment?

Today the week long professional FBD Irish Open in Fitzwilliam was offering a prize fund of €11,367 with the champion earning €1,633, the runner up €961 and a first round winner taking home €118.

Currently there are more than 200 rugby players in these islands earning more that the 200th best tennis player on the planet. That’s great for rugby but for tennis it seems like needless disregard.