The All England Club has just announced a pay rise for players competing at Wimbledon this year.
While the £1.76 million for the singles winners is sure to make us impoverished desk-jockeys green with envy, given the monumental skills and efforts required to win The Championships, it’s an understandable amount.
What isn't understandable, however, is the £27,000 on offer to the first-round losers. Tennis journeymen the world over will be rubbing their calloused hands in glee.
Basically, what it means is that a fairly average player with a sufficiently high ranking (say 90 in the world) can rock up to the All England Club on day one this year, amble out onto court No.17, twist an ankle, and then head home with £27,000 in his pocket. Wham, bam, thank you Wimb.
Surely there’s something wrong going on here. Especially when you compare it to the prize money available on the lower echelons of professional tennis.
Take the ITF Pro Circuit for example. Here, at the very bottom rung of professional tennis, rewards are paltry compared with the main tour events.
First-round losers at the smallest men’s events, for example, pocket a measly US$104. That’s barely enough to cover a restring, a sandwich and a taxi back to the hotel. And it’s not as if player expenses are much lower at the bottom end. If anything they’re higher.
While Wimbledon players are offered daily living expenses, free courtesy cars, free stringing etc, it’s all very different when you get down to the unglamorous ITF Pro Circuit.
So you want to play the Kish F7 Futures in Iran, do you? Or the $10,000 Andijan in Uzbekistan? (Both tournaments are on this week.)
First off, you need to get a flight and book accommodation. Okay, so hotels are cheap in central Asia, but you can hardly fly Ryanair to Tehran.
Then you’ve got local transport, stringing, physio, food bills. (Scrimp on the latter and your only passing shots will be into the local sewerage system.)
Of course, round 1 at Wimbledon attracts a lot more spectators than round 1 in Kish where you’ll be playing in front of your opponent’s girlfriend and a couple of stray dogs. Yet the tennis is no less fiercely contested, no less exciting.
Surely the world’s most elite tournaments have a moral duty to ensure players at the very bottom of the barrel are given a helping hand. They should look at it as investing in the future.
Faced with high expenses and pathetic prize money, many ITF Pro Circuit players simply can’t afford to compete. It would be interesting to know how many have abandoned the sport at the very outset for financial reasons.
Meanwhile, who’s going to hit the big payday at Wimbledon this year?
Men's tournament betting:
Novak Djokovic 3.00
Rafa Nadal 4.50
Roger Federer 6.00
Andy Murray 7.00
Stanislas Wawrinka 7.50
Women's tournament betting:
Serena Williams 2.00
Maria Sharapova 6.00
Victoria Azarenka 7.00
Li Na 8.50