It takes a good amount of money to throw a tennis tournament together at any level. Grand Slams cost the most, but even local junior events have operating costs.
One way to offset the cost a bit is to charge an entry fee for all players. While that tends to fade away the higher a player goes, and the more prestigious the tournament is, there are surprisingly many players paying to play.
Do tennis players pay to enter tournaments? The top tennis professionals do not pay to enter tournaments. However, a lot of ITF Futures events, as well as any tournaments below that, come with an entry fee. The fees are generally not much, but it helps pay for balls, umpires, refreshments, court rentals, and more.
Entry Fees For Grand Slams, ATP & WTA Tour Events
Professional tennis players at the top of their game do not have to pay to enter tournaments. There is a small fee once a year that players need to pay to enter ATP or WTA tournaments, but that is usually a few hundred dollars at most.
They figure out who gets in tournaments based on the ranking system up until the cut-off date. Depending on the level of the tournament, the ranking cutoff fluctuates.
Some smaller tournaments actually go in the opposite direction and pay players to show up. For example, a smaller tournament might spend a large amount of money for an appearance from a top 10 player.
They get the recognition of having an outstanding player at the tournament, and they feel like it is an intelligent business decision overall. This can be anything from a flat fee, to giving them all expenses paid while visiting.
Appearance fees are generally accepted in the tennis community, but finding exact totals might be a little challenging. It is generally considered poor form to brag about how much a smaller tournament might pay for a top player in the world to play.
ITF Futures Events (and Smaller Pro Tournaments)
Once players reach the ITF Futures level, they feel like they are breaking out a bit as a professional. However, there is still an entry fee for these tournaments, and it is usually right around $50 or less. Players can make that money back if they win prize money, but the prize money is not very big for these tournaments.
While it can seem frustrating to have to pay to play in these tournaments, they are not making much profit as it is. It costs money to put on these different tournaments, and they need to pay for the facilities, those in charge of running the event, and so much more. The entry fee might be pretty low, but as long as everyone is paying, it can help offset the cost.
If a player has dependable sponsors, they might have those companies pick up the bill. Otherwise, it needs to come out of a players pocket.
Paying For Adult & Junior Tournaments
Except for rare occasions, all adult and junior tournaments come with a fee. Since these players are not professionals, the fee helps pay for some of the costs that go with these tournaments. There might be some small prizes awarded to players, but it is mostly following a pay-to-play model. The trade-off is that players get good competition and in many cases, an umpire to look over the courts and settle any issues.
In the United States, a lot of tournaments run through the United States Tennis Association. They charge a yearly fee to be a member, but there is also the opportunity to buy multi-year and even lifetime memberships. After that, each tournament has a different price, but it usually stays around that $50 range.
Juniors are not eligible to accept prize money if they want to keep their amateurism. That is why a lot of younger players will not actually win money for the tournaments, as they want to have the opportunity to play college tennis down the road.
Adult tournaments will also offer cash on occasion, but generally speaking, the more prize money, the more challenging the tournament is. Players participating in open draws could be going up against former professionals looking to make a little bit of money playing a sport they love.
How Expenses Add Up For Tennis Players
At any level of tennis, the sport is much different from a typical team set up. Instead of having a team pay for just about everything, the players are on their own to make a living. This is why looking at everything from prize money to entry fees should be viewed much differently than from a team perspective.
At first glance, players having to pay $40 or so to enter a tournament might not seem like that much. However, a professional player also has to pay for their coaches, travel, medical coverage, and so much more. The money earned by a player is split in so many different ways that some are barely breaking even.
Fees for tournaments are often justified, and they are cut down as low as possible. However, it is something that no one would ever think of if this was a team sport. At the junior level, playing weekly tournaments can prove to be pretty costly for parents, without factoring in all the money spent on lessons, court time, and more to get to a certain level.
Are Tournaments Worth The Money?
Tennis players continue to pay to enter tournaments because they face all against the best competition. Not only is there an opportunity to play different players, but there are always bragging rights on the line as well.
For junior players, getting tournament play is going to help them progress as a player overall. It is important to be put in tough situations to understand how to handle pressure later on.
For adults, a lot of tennis players are still looking for that level of competition that can keep them motivated. Entering a tournament, especially if it is broken up into skill level, is a great way to get a competitive match.
Will Tournaments Continue To Cost Money To Enter?
There does not seem to be any sign of entry fees going away anytime soon. It just makes sense to offset the cost in many different ways, with this being a small amount of money that can be used to cover expenses.
Sure, it is frustrating for players earning an income as a professional player to pay to enter tournaments, but they can often be a lucrative investment if they win.
That entry fee could turn into thousands and thousands of dollars, giving them the ranking necessary to play in more prestigious tournaments. Once a player gets to a certain level, they can finally say goodbye to tournament entry fees in general.