Throughout its history, tennis has had a reputation for being an expensive sport. Only in the last few decades has the sport started to shed its country club image as a sport only for the rich. It’s still a sport that people with limited resources find difficult to play consistently, but it’s opening up a little.
Why is tennis so expensive? Tennis is a very expensive sport. That is because it requires a lot of different types of equipment. Everything from, racquets, balls, shoes, strings, and then you also need to pay the court fees. It will become even more expensive if you take private lessons or attend tournaments.
The Price of Casual Play
A very casual tennis player likely will not understand why people think of tennis as an expensive sport. Any person can go purchase a basic racquet and some tennis balls for under $50 to use on free public access courts. This is all the equipment that is needed for beginners, but anyone looking to advance beyond casual play will quickly start to look at upgrades.
That initial can of balls will not last forever, and the cheapest racquets available won’t last. As soon as a string breaks, the entire racquet needs replaced, since they aren’t built to take on re-stringing.
The Cost of Competitive Tennis
Once a player graduates from basic levels of tennis, the cost can shoot up in a hurry. What makes tennis so expensive? Here is a closer breakdown of how much everything costs.
Racquets, Maintenance and Strings
Competitive players will have at least two of the same racquet to play with at all times. This is to make sure that if a string breaks or a grip becomes too slippery, there is a backup option available at all times.
The higher the level, the more racquets a person usually has at their disposal. Professional players will bring dozens of racquets with them to a tournament in some cases.
A good racquet is generally going to cost somewhere between $180 and $250. That’s a pretty high upfront cost, but the real cost of a racquet is getting it re-strung throughout its lifespan. Most people stick with a racquet for about two years, which could mean 10 or more re-stringings.
String price ranges quite a bit, depending on the material, quality and brand. It is easy to buy a set of strings, but players who re-string a lot will look into purchasing a reel of string to save on money in the long run.
Labor adds up as well, as it’s hard to find a quality stringer willing to do it for under $15 in today’s world. That means even on the low end, it will cost at least $25 to get a racquet re-strung each time. If a person decides to go with a premium type of string, the price can creep up towards $50 each time.
Strings break all the time, but advanced players will sometimes cut out string once it loses too much tension as well. After just a few hours of play, getting a new string job can add up in a hurry. It’s very easy for even recreational players to spend $100 or more on racquet maintenance alone per month.
Other small items like vibration dampeners and overgrips cost a little bit of money each month, but nothing too crazy. People who play in very warm and humid climates might need to buy more overgrips than the average person, but it isn’t too much of an expense. Most people will get at least 3-4 hours out of an overgrip.
Balls, Balls and More Balls
A single can of tennis balls seems inexpensive enough, but what many beginners don’t realize is just how short of lifespan tennis balls have. At the highest level on pro tours, new tennis balls are only used for roughly 9 games of action before they are tossed aside.
Casual players will use a new can of balls for every single match. If a person is playing multiple times a week, it’s not hard to spend $50 or more a month simply on balls.
If there is one thing that can make tennis expensive in a hurry, it’s renting a court in certain parts of the world. It instantly makes the sport very restrictive to only the well-off if there is a complete lack of public courts. Not too many people can afford to pay a hefty hourly rate to train or play a match multiple times a week.
The most affordable way to play tennis consistently at a place that charges is to join a membership program. This will allow for unlimited use, and therefore players won’t be feeling like they need to limit how often they go.
It’s a huge cost, but a necessity in certain parts of the world to get consistent court time. It’s also usually needed in colder areas so that a person can play during the winter months.
Clothing, Accessories, and Shoes
Ever notice that clothing made specifically for tennis tends to cost a little bit more? There is no reason for this other than its reputation for being an expensive sport. Brands feel like they can charge a little extra for what virtually is the same as a typical shirt and pair of shorts marketed towards running and training.
Players should feel free to wear just about any top they want, and the same goes for the bottom. Just make sure that there are pockets available, or some other way to secure an additional ball while playing.
Most tennis players use some type of headwear to not only protect themselves from the sun, but keep sweat out of the eyes as well. The same goes for wristbands on one or both wrists.
What is one thing every player should invest in with tennis? Without question, a proper pair of shoes is needed not only to perform at a high level but to prevent injury. A person can play at pretty much the same level with any type of sports clothing on, but shoes make a big difference.
Different Surfaces = Different Shoes
Tennis players put a lot of wear and tear on their legs and feet, and with so many different movements, a shoe must handle tennis. Don’t even attempt to play tennis with casual shoes or running shoes, because they won’t have very good lateral support. Not only that, but they will wear down in a hurry, especially on hard courts.
There are specific tennis shoes for each surface to consider as well. Most players are going to purchase a pair of hard court tennis shoes, as they are the most durable.
They can withstand hours and hours of play on a hard, gritty surface. Clay court tennis shoes have a specific tread pattern that allows for extra grip, as well as the ability to slide into shots.
Here are my up-to-date tennis shoes recommendations for clay & hard courts:
Finally, grass court tennis shoes have just enough added grip to prevent a person from falling each time they make a change in direction. The shoes are soft enough that no one will get in trouble for using them on grass courts either.
Individual Sports Are More Expensive
One of the overlooked reasons why tennis is expensive is due to it being an individual sport. Golf is another sport that runs into this issue, as the cost of using a facility can’t be spread out amongst an entire team.
Take basketball as a comparison to tennis. Playing at the junior level, a basketball team might have 10 to 12 players on it. That means 10 to 12 players are splitting the cost of renting a facility, traveling to a tournament, paying the entry fee for a tournament, and providing compensation for the coach.
In tennis, all of that needs to be paid for by one person. Even if some fees are a little cheaper overall, those costs add up in a hurry. A basketball trainer might look to make $80 per hour giving lessons to a group of players, while a tennis instructor will look for the same amount during a training session with just one client.
You can read more about how much tennis lessons cost in this post.
Is Tennis a Rich Man’s Sport?
Thanks to all the costs detailed above, tennis has always developed a reputation as being a sport for the rich. That thought is evolving a little bit these days, and it’s good news for the sport overall.
For starters, tennis is moving away from the country club status it had in the past. Serena and Venus Williams are two great examples of that. They grew up on public courts in Compton, California, and they were coached by their father. Their father had no tennis background, but he learned the game and focused on improving his girls all the time.
They eventually caught the eye of some of the top tennis instructors in the world to help with costs, but there is no denying that they have an extremely interesting backstory that is the exact opposite of tennis‘s old reputation.
The more open the sport is to any person who shows an interest, the better off it will be. That allows tennis to attract the best athletes, and the sport will continue to take off. It still costs a lot of money to get to the top, but specialized training in any sport is starting to creep up in price as well.
The better a player becomes, the more expensive tennis gets. With that being said, people should look at it as any type of hobby.
If it’s something a person truly enjoys, there are ways to cut down on costs and not make it super expensive. It’s still a very good workout, and playing tennis can replace a gym membership for a lot of people.
Getting into tennis at an early age can set a person up for a college scholarship or beyond. For older players, it helps to stay in shape and be active person overall.
It’s important to find a good, consistent place to play to help cut down on costs. There is no need to join a super expensive club if there are public courts available on a fairly consistent basis. Players can make sacrifices here and there to help with cutting down costs as well.