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Many of the world’s professional tennis players have struggled to make ends meet after the coronavirus pandemic forced the widespread postponement or cancellation of tournaments, according to Patrick Mouratoglou, one of the sport’s most prominent coaches.
Mouratoglou, who has trained Serena Williams and several other prominent stars, noted that tennis players don’t earn fixed salaries and are reliant on tournament payouts to pay their bills. While star players earn massive sums from their wins and earn additional income from top-dollar sponsorship deals, players outside the top-100 rankings were left with little financial security when the outbreak began.
“I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world – followed by an estimated one billion fans – is barely able to make a living out of it,' Mouratoglou wrote in an open letter posted on Twitter.
Like most sports leagues, the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association were forced to suspend their tournaments after government bans on mass gatherings and travel restrictions made it untenable to hold the events. Both the men’s and women’s circuits have suspended play until at least July.
In his letter, Mouratoglou said professional tennis operates under a “dysfunctional” system in which lower-tier players cover the cost of their own travel and training with no guaranteed income of their own. The French tennis coach called on leaders in professional tennis to reform the sport’s economic system to provide security to players.
“It is time to think about those players and help them, first in the immediate future, then in the long-term,” he wrote.
A 2018 International Review Panel report found that limited earning potential left lower-tier players susceptible to gambling-related corruption. The report noted that just 250 to 300 tennis players earned enough money to break even against training costs.
A number of pro tennis players have expressed concern about their financial circumstances during the pandemic. One player, Sofia Shapatava of Georgia, started a Change.org petition calling on the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation to support players.
“Without income of any sort, the companies in charge of tennis circuit should be held accountable to secure players in this time of need, or at least help them through this hard time for our sport,” the petition says. “Any help will do for the majority.”
The ATP and WTA said they are exploring ways to help players financially when play resumes, according to Reuters.