Tennis is widely recognized as the most popular individual sport in the world. There are approximately 50million active tennis players around the world. Of those 50 million active players, there are approximately 500 that make it to the top and should be considered as professionals.
Unlike many other sports, tennis players don’t have contract for a team that guarantees money. But, how do tennis players earn their money and how much do the professionals really make? Let’s find out.
How do tennis players earn money? Professional tennis players make money through 4 different income sources, tournament prize money, endorsement deals, playing exhibitions and bonuses. The top players that consistently competes on the ATP Tour are making most of their money through endorsement deals. While, the lower ranked players are earning most of their money through prize money from different tournaments.
Tournament Prize Money
Tennis players can make their full time living exclusively from prize money from tournaments. However, this mainly apples to the players that are ranked within the top 100. Those who are ranked outside the top 100 are mostly playing at “challenger” tournaments. In these tournaments the prize money is only a fraction of what the bigger ATP and Grand Slam tournaments are having.
We listed the prize money for 3 different tennis tournaments. The first one is the grand slam tournament, Wimbledon. Which is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, and therefore there are also a ton of money involved. The second one is ATP Miami, which is one of the many tournaments on the ATP Tour. All the top players are participating in this tournament, even though it isn’t as prestigious as Wimbledon. However, the prize money may be the answer to why the top players are playing here.
Most players participating in Wimbledon and ATP Miami are ranked inside the top 100. However, in the last one Sparkasse Challenger, most players are ranked outside the top 100, and as you can see the prize money for these tournaments are nothing compared to the bigger tournaments.
Prize Money For Wimbledon 2019
ATP Miami 2019
As you can see, there are some major differences between the prize money for a challenger compared to the more prestigious tournaments. If you lose the first round of Wimbledon you get €50k, compared to the €10k, that you get if you win the Sparkasse Challenger.
5 Times more for just participating in Wimbledon than winning a challenger is quite mind-blowing. But if you consider all the attention and money a tournament like Wimbledon get through tickets and sponsors, compared to a challenger that isn’t even close to getting as much attention, it’s pretty understandable that the prize money is like it is.
Tennis is an attractive sport for companies and signing endorsement deals with sponsors is one of the biggest income sources for many tennis players, especially for the more popular ones. The richest tennis player doesn’t have to be the one who wins the most prize money from tournaments. Instead the richest players are usually the one who has the best endorsement deals.
Roger Federer, signed a €250 million contract with the Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo 2018. The contract extends over 10 years and guarantees Federer €250 million in that time. Which is quite strange, since Federer is going to be 47 when the contract rans out and as Federer retires from tennis, Uniqlo won’t benefit as much from the partnership.
Apart from the Uniqlo deal, Roger Federer regularly gets around €50 million a year from sponsorships. You can compare that to his approximately €10 million winnings from tournaments each year. So, It’s safe to say that endorsement deals are important. However, no player is even close to getting as much money from endorsement deals as Roger Federer does.
Roger Federers Total Earnings. Separated by Tournament Prize Money and Endorsement Deals.
|Year||Prize Money||Endorsement Deals||Total Earnings|
Novak Djokovic is a player that isn’t as popular as Federer, however, he is still very attractive for companies searching for exposure. Djokovic biggest sponsors are the tennis brand Head, the watch brand Seiko and lastly the fashion brand Lacoste. If you watch him play, you will always see him wearing Lacoste clothes and playing with a racquet from Head. In the end of many matches, he also puts on his Seiko watch to get some exposure for the watch brand.
He gets €8 million every year from the clothing brand Lacoste and around €4,5 million from Seiko. Novak have resigned the sponsorship with Head 4 times and he is now getting approximately €7 million a year from the sponsorship. In total he gets around €20 million a year from endorsement deals.
Novak Djokovic Total Earnings. Separated by Tournament Prize Money and Endorsement Deals.
|Year||Prize Money||Endorsement Deals||Total Earnings|
Playing Exhibitions is when a player gets paid for participating in a tournament. Usually there are popular tennis players like, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that get paid for coming to a tournament. The tournaments directors pay these popular players to draw in more fans and media attention to the tournament.
A normal exhibition fee for a player like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal would be something around 1-3€ million, depending on the tournament. Playing Exhibitions is mainly for top ranked players, so the lower ranked players won’t benefit much from this.
According to the Tennis World Magazine, Roger Federer asked for €2 million to play at the laver cup 2014. He also asked for €1 million for several different ATP 500 tournaments.
Apart from the top ranked players, there are plenty of retired tennis players that get paid to make a comeback in their tournament. For example, Andre Agassi that turns 50 this year, have played several tournaments in Italy recent years, due to him getting payed for participating.
Tennis players get bonuses from a variety of sources. Everything from their different sponsors to ranking bonuses. For example, all the players that are ranked inside the top 12 at the end of each year, gets at least a €150.000 bonus from the ATP. The players that make it to the top 8 can participate in the ATP Finals, where all players are guaranteed €175,000, even if they lose all matches. However, the winner of the ATP Finals will get another €2,250,000.
Most tennis players have a bonus system with their sponsors. This could be for example that the player gets a pot of money when he gets ranked inside the top 100 or by placing good in a tournament, that gives the sponsors more exposure.
What About The Average Professional?
Everything that we have listed above, is mainly about the top ranked players. But what about the lower ranked players that aren’t as popular?
The average professional are apart from the top ranked players, not making most of their money through endorsement deals. Most players make most of their money through prize money from different tournaments.
The average professional tennis player are earning €35,000/year. Which is very good, but if you compare it to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic yearly income, then €35k is literally nothing. I broke down the stats and saw something that is quite mind blowing. Roger Federer earns more in 4 hours of sleeping than an average tennis player earns in a whole year of competing.
While the best players can earn millions of dollars every month, the lower ranked player won’t earn anything near the top ranked players. Most people believe that all professional tennis players are millionaires, but that is far from the truth. Unlike sports like soccer, where even average pro players can be millionaires, most tennis players would earn more money through a traditional job.
Costs of Being a Pro Tennis Player
€35K/year may seem to be a dream income for playing tennis. Which it undoubtedly is. But, if you consider the travel and accommodation costs of getting to all the tournaments around the world, and your team of coaches and measures that needs to get payed, it isn’t that much left.
Playing tennis as a profession, isn’t as glamorous as it seems for most players. Only the top ranked players are wealthy. The average player are competing in different tournaments around the world just to get the economy around.
The rewards for being a top ranked tennis player is massive, but for the lower ranked players there aren’t much money involved. The inequality in tennis is more than any other sport.
If you are a top 1-25 ranked player you will make fortune playing tennis with all the endorsement deals and prize money. The top 25-100 players are also having an extremely comfortable living. However, there is a gap between them and those who are ranked outside the top 100. The players outside the top 100 most likely just breaks even with all the travel and accommodation costs that comes with playing tennis all around the world.
However, I don’t feel bad for the lower ranked players. Because, playing tennis for a living is something that millions of people dream about and those who make it should just be happy that they are able to pursue their passion as a career.