7 Steps To Become a Professional Tennis Player

Turning a passion into a profession is extremely challenging, no matter what a person is pursuing. For tennis players, it is particularly challenging, as roughly 100 players on the ATP and the WTA tour are making amazing lives as professional players. Everyone else is fighting for scraps, and players must continually perform at high levels to keep that ranking high.

What are the best ways to beat the odds and become a professional tennis player? Many of the steps can apply to any sport out there, but some are specific for tennis itself that makes it unique.

1. Start Practicing At An Early Age

Tennis players are basically required to start practicing at an early age if they want to have any chance of becoming a professional. There is so much skill involved with tennis, and this involves years and years of repetition. Even getting a year or two of a late start as a child can set a player back as they try to progress.

Take a look around the current tour, and very few players are considered late bloomers. Almost all of them had a racquet in their hand before they were 10 years old, and they took it seriously around that time as well. Since there is so much refined skill involved, players can’t get away with pure athleticism like they can in sports like football and basketball.

2. Compete In Local Junior Tournaments

The majority of players get their feet wet in local junior tournaments to see where they stand. At this point, people who have a passion for tennis might not know exactly how good they are currently. The only way to know is to start with competing, and local junior tournaments are a great start.

Is it the best competition out there? No, but a player needs to master these tournaments before they can graduate to something bigger and better. It is always nice to pick up some wins early on and gain some confidence, but ultimately, players need to graduate to a bit more talent if the plan is to become a pro. Take care of business early, and start rising up the ranks.

3. Compete In National Junior Tournaments

If a player reaches a certain ranking in their age group, they can compete in national junior tournaments. Look at the history of almost every professional tennis player, and they have a long list of tournaments that they have participated in at the national level. There might be qualifiers that a person needs to pass through to get there, but anyone with professional aspirations must put in the work.

At the national level, these are the players who are taking it just as seriously as others. Truth be told, most believe that they have what it takes to be a professional tennis player. At the least, they could get a college scholarship, but making money in some capacity with tennis is what drives them.

4. Compete In ITF Junior Tournaments

Tennis is an international sport, so competing in tournaments put together by the International Tennis Federation will be necessary for most to push themselves as a professional tennis player. These junior tournaments can be very competitive, even if they are not filled with talent from all over.

Limiting play to just one country is not going to be sufficient for most tennis players these days. Just look at the top 50 on both ATP and WTA tours, and several countries are represented. Playing on the international tour also opens up challenges that might not be noticeable at first.

Everyone feels like they live in their own bubble when younger, but there are talented players everywhere. This broadens the perspective and pushes the best to get better and better.

5. Compete & Advance In Future Tournaments (ITF)

Future tournaments are where young, aspiring professionals first get their feet wet while attempting to win a little bit of money along the way. These events will be a mix of young players just hanging out and seasoned veterans who are trying to hold on. For a professional to really take that leap and make it a living, they need to play well at this level.

Future tournaments are held worldwide, and people can really get a feel for how professional tennis works in general. It is a grueling schedule that is not designed for the weak, but players can really see what they can do against the best of the best all over.

Players do not necessarily need to be professionals to compete in future events, but there is some money available for winning. Once a player does accept money for winning as a professional, they can’t go back to amateur status. That means they must forfeit their college eligibility, which can be detrimental for some players who are on the fridge.

6. Compete In Challenger Tournaments

Once a player starts consistently playing in Challenger tournaments and even winning a few rounds, they feel like they are well on their way to playing on the highest tour level. The Challenger circuit is a step up from futures, but there is not a ton of money available unless a player is winning and playing all the time.

For example, there are plenty of players who spend most of the time at Challenger tournaments, but they will get their ranking high enough to get into the majors. Just qualifying for one of the four major tournaments can earn a player more money than winning challengers. It is that push to get to the highest level and play only ATP or WTA events that keep people motivated.

7. Qualifying For ATP Tournaments

Every single tournament has points up for grabs for players to pick up for their ranking. Challenger events do not have a ton of points available, but they can start to accumulate to the point that a person is automatically qualifying for a lot of ATP or WTA events.

When that is the case, players usually start to skip the Challenger circuit altogether, opting for their push at the highest level. This can be a grueling process, as some players will go months without a win when they first make the jump. With that said, even losing in the first round consistently can lead to a better career financially than playing challenger tournaments going deep every single time.

The most challenging thing about being a professional tennis player is that the rankings are always updating. Rankings are for the past 52 weeks, so a player who has one great tournament can jump up in the rankings pretty fast. However, if they do not defend the title a year later, they will plummet if they have not picked up points elsewhere.

The ranking system motivates players to play and pick up as many points as possible continually. Players can’t afford injury issues for too long, or they can drop out of the rankings altogether. It is a long way to the top, but the best players in the world can make a great living. Unlike team sports, tennis is all about how an individual can fight through and continue to play against each opponent that comes their way.

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