Sep 24, 2020
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How Pro Tennis Players Make Money: A Top-10 Player Explains

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John Isner of the U. S. returns to Roger Federer of Switzerland in the course of the final of the. [+] GETTY People often come up and tell me how much cash I make in a year which is funny because I don t think it s something I ve ever said to someone


They re rarely accurate however it happens so often that I feel it s worth explaining exactly how pro tennis players earn money (to be followed by a much different sadder post called: Expenses). My hope here is that pulling back the curtain a bit on my revenue streams may also help explain the various dynamics of the tennis industry and perhaps pro athletes in general both with regards to how players earn but additionally when it comes to where brands see value and judge to invest


The plain one is prize money. I earned approximately $4 million in prize money in 2018. I won the Miami Open I made the semifinals of Wimbledon; this was the best year of my career and I finished No. 10 inside the world. Clearly this was a superb prize money year


The sole catch is that in the first place of every season you re guaranteed none of it. There isn t a salary in tennis. There s no base + commission structure. No year-end bonus (though more on that below). I do know lots of my friend s jobs would have one more feel in the event that they needed to battle colleagues day-to-day to see who earns an income


Additionally my 2018 was a Top 10 year but on the ATP Tour when you drop down into the Top 50 Top 100 the economics of prize money become very different. The second revenue stream we have is sponsorships. Tennis sponsorships differ from say a basketball sponsorship in that every player is a franchise which might be branded on his or her own


For me sponsorships encompass everything from Fila which I work with on apparel and footwear to Ebix and Tamko with whom I’ve got patch deals. I ve played with Prince racquets my entire career. The style I view it sponsors work with me so they are able to be a part of the $64000 moments in my career


They put money into (and I desire to be clear in addition they support) the promise that I ll reach the massive rounds of tournaments get to the primetime matches on center court and earn the TV and media exposure to offer them a powerful ROI on their investment. They put a marketing valuation on some combination of my game my personality my appeal my audience reach and that they put money into me to provide value to them


There s risk of course. If I bow out early at a significant suddenly their logo doesn t get shown to millions of people all over the world but then after I play the longest match inside the history of tennis their logo lives on forever in a museum. I feel it really works out


Sponsorship deals include incentives and reductions as well. If I fall out of the Top 20 I would trigger a reduction inside the base sponsorship compensation though in that very same contract I ll even have bonus incentive for reaching the finals of a Grand Slam (which will be valued differently than the bonus for reaching the finals of an ATP 1000 event or an ATP 500 etc


). The markets and audience appeal is important and for American players these deals often put a higher incentive on U. S. -based events. The style I see it the prize money is a mirrored image of my on-court performance however the sponsorships are something more personal connected more to people and fans and to my values


A tournament pays me to reveal up since the fans desire to see me and I move the needle on the box office? That s amazing. It s good for tennis good for me and good for the event. If a sponsor desires to pay to place their company name on my shirt because they believe I m a powerful ambassador for his or her brand? Heck yes


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Prize money disappears. My sponsorships and appearance fees suddenly have one more look. The revenue I generate today needs to be robust and considering the chance involved with a tennis player s income it also needs to be diverse. Plus did I mention expenses?

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