Over the last couple of days we have seen Roger Federer leap frog Lionel Messi as the highest paid athlete in the world for 2020 according to Forbes. Other tennis stars including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka (leapfrogging Serena), Serena Williams and Kei Nishikori the only six tennis stars in the top 100. It doesn’t sound much but tennis is the fourth highest sport on the combined list, so why is there a big money problem?
We have events that give out millions but this pandemic has left tennis fighting to help those at the most crucial part of our game and that is the grassroots.
I said a while ago when plans were beginning to be spoken about with regards to a relief fund, why has it taken for a global pandemic to realise it is impossible to make a living outside the top 150 in the world?
How can we expect players to stick around, travel around the world, pay their expenses and play the sport we all love when at ITF Mens Level going home in a semi-final isn’t a bad result but pockets you around £1000. Is that going to pay for flights, accommodation, expenses? No.
There is more money available on the ITF women’s tour as they don’t have a specific challenger tour ran by the WTA like the ATP do but if you aren’t in the final of at least an ITF 60+ event you aren’t making money to pay expenses and maintain the on the move lifestyle of a tennis player.
There has been a relief fund launched by the ATP and WTA to help those ranked between 100-500 in the world and since then the ITF have announced they are putting out a relief fund to help those ranked further down the rankings. Question is, how come it took soo long for ITF to put out plans for a scheme which still isn’t in place almost three months after a global pandemic and tennis was played?
This prize money issue isn’t just an issue because of a pandemic but has been a problem for years so how do we address it in the future? Easy according to Marion Bartoli, take money off doubles players…
On a zoom chat on Match Points show she said:
“I know I’m not going to make myself friends but I think we have to say it. I don’t understand all these doubles competitions all year round. I understand during Grand Slams and the Olympics because doubles is part of tennis history but I’ve been to some tournaments now with my player and I see now these doubles players they have crews of like six people around them”
“When I was a player, as a singles player we couldn’t afford to pay six people to travel with us full-time. They can afford to pay six people and they just play doubles!”
“Why don’t you get some of that money to qualifiers to someone who plays only challengers? I just don’t understand because in doubles, you just don’t make the same effort as a singles player. You don’t practice as much, they keep going week in and week out getting that money.”
“I don’t know if we have to stop doubles completely but to get less money and give that money to qualification and others that should be a solution.”
Not very nice words, doubles players including Gaby Dabrowski, Nicolas Mahut and tennis coach Dani Vallverdu have staked clarification especially on how this would be fair and which doubles players have a team of six??
Basically Marion (who played 199 doubles matches herself winning 3 titles) wants to see doubles played but doesn’t believe it should be played at all events and should be cut. This cut would then see prize money heavily cut from doubles players and given to futures, challengers, qualifiers etc… who struggle to make money.
So essentially, take money from doubles players who make hardly anything compared to singles and give it to those lower ranked in singles. So, who helps out the doubles players? Not all doubles players play singles and they are very hard working players and do make the same effort.
How can you even think to solve a problem in sport by creating another? Chaos.
Marion believes doubles players should get less prize money. I will always respect everyone’s opinions and will have a debate but doubles is not the issue here and shouldn’t be penalised.
At a Grand Slam, if a doubles team wins the title one player will receive just 9-10% of what a singles player gets for winning the same event. £2.22 million for singles winner at this years Australian Open and each indvidiual doubles winner won around £230,000. So, were really going to take away more money from doubles?
This statistic of 9-10% doesn’t get better on the domestic ATP and WTA tours. You have your category of tournaments on each tour but the percentage of prize money per player only improves between 11-17% of what a singles player wins across the tour.
I randomly picked six tournaments of different levels from last year and this is the prize money for winning and the percentage one doubles players get compared to the singles winner.
Charleston – WTA Premier
Singles – £114,230
Doubles – £17,904 (per player on doubles team)
Madrid – WTA Premier Mandatory / ATP Masters 1000
Singles – £974,213
Doubles – £144,829 (per player on doubles team)
Brisbane – WTA Premier
Singles – £152,533
Doubles – £19,577 (per player on doubles team)
Indian Wells – WTA Premier Mandatory / ATP Masters 1000
Singles – £1,096,941
Doubles – £185,235 (per player on doubles team)
Barcelona – ATP 500
Singles – £407,514
Doubles – £68,578
Kremlin Cup – ATP 250
Singles – £117,333
Doubles – £19,249
It is the same pattern across the board even at different levels. I’ve done it as prize money per doubles player because it is about an individual, not a team. Money will get split 50/50 between a winning team so it is important to see it as individual people.
A world number one in doubles can win a major tournament and walk away with a small % of what a singles winner will get. Even if you count it as a team which I wouldn’t get why it is still only 30%.
How can we cut doubles events from tournaments and cut prize money when it is already incredibly low?