Low-Ranked Tennis Players Served Prize Increases
Lower-ranked tennis players will be able to collect more in prize money than ever before at this year's Wimbledon tournament, a development which experts hope will help them to meet the high costs of professional tennis.
The sport's top players recognized the disparity in prize money between top ranked and low ranked players and last summer, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic met with the Grand Slam committees to discuss an increase in prize money, especially for players that lose in the first rounds.
Grand Slam organizers agreed to raise the total amount of prize money for the four prestigious events and allocate the highest percent of increases in prize money to players who lose in the first few rounds of the tournaments. Wimbledon increased by the total prize money by $10 million, the biggest increase of all.
"At the heart of the increase is a wish by the Club to continue to build on last year's focus of targeting the increases to the side of the draw which we felt needed it most - the players who lose in the early rounds or in qualifying," Wimbledon organizers said following the decision.
The Australian Open increased its total prize money by $4 million, Roland Garros (French Open) increased by $3 million and the U.S. Open increased by $8 million.
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Donna Vekic, currently ranked 64 in the world, told CNBC the increase of prize money is fantastic news.
"Tennis is a very expensive sport and I know fully that my parents have sacrificed a great deal to get me to this stage in my career. This is a monumental and historic achievement for women's tennis and I want to thank everyone involved for fighting for this milestone."
Sergiy Stakhovsky, currently ranked 117 in the world, said he and other players are very happy with the prize money increase that came after a long time and hours of discussion.
"We all worked for this to happen around a year, or even more. The impact is significant as players are moving towards a larger group of individuals who can actually earn money by playing tennis," he said.
According to the ATP, the governing body for male professional tennis, Stakhovsky has made $2.7 million in prize money over his 10-year professional career. Novak Djokovic, currently ranked number one by the ATP, made almost the same amount after winning one event, the Australian Open, this January.
Other experts also pointed to the high costs associated with the sport and the significant discrepancy in financial payouts between tennis players.
"It's difficult for lower players to travel, get proper training and (there are) costs associated with that. It's a tough profession to make a living in," Chris Widmaier, Managing Director of Communications for the U.S. governing body of tennis USTA told CNBC.
Brad Gilbert, tennis coach and expert, agreed, pointing out players also face significant costs for their entourage.
"You're paying your coach, his hotel, his airfare, and your airfare. Sometimes a lot of guys have a trainer with them as well. You're paying three tickets. If you have a girlfriend or a wife, you are paying for four tickets," Gilbert said.
Lower-ranked players may have limited coaching options because of their budgets. Gilbert said every coaching deal is different depending on a player's rank, but the top 20 players have better contracts.
Players with endorsements can also cut costs on equipment or clothing. Stakhovsky said players with major endorsements fall into two main groups.
"First is the elite. We are talking about top 20 players. The second group is based on the market: Japan, China, and the United States. If you are coming of these countries, you have a good chance of being branded," Stakhovsky said.
For those that struggle to catch the major brands' attention, there may be more good news over the next few years. The U.S. Open has pledged to increase its total prize money to $50 million by 2017 from $33.6 million for 2013.