Top International Tennis: What’s in it for the Tennis Federations, Tennis Farmers & Factory Workers?

BY DAVE MILEY

I often compare top tennis tournaments to a shop selling produce. They have to buy or rent the building for the shop  (stadiums and courts); they have to hire qualified staff to work  in the shop; they have to advertise and promote the shop. But  the most important thing for any shop is to source the products  that they will sell in the shop from the National farmers and the  people that make the products-the factory owners and workers. And then the shop owners hope that the customers (TV stations, spectators etc.) will visit their tournament shop, face to face or through TV/online, and buy their products that they have in the store. 

In the top tournaments (the Grand Slams and the top ATP and WTA tour events)  most of the products (the players) for sale are provided to the store for free  (except the ones that are part of their own player development program). The farmers and the factory owners/workers in each non-Grand Slam tennis  federation (the coaches, the clubs, the academies) get little back in return for their investment in growing or making the player/products sold in the top  tournament store.  

Hubert Hurkacz – Photo Courtesy of Peter Figura

The tennis federations also do not get any payment for the shipping and  transportation of the player product to the tournament shop via the international player pathway. The shipping and transportation of the players is done through the international player pathway and most of the tournaments  that make up the Junior and entry level pro pathway delivering the top players to  the pro tournaments are paid for by Tennis Federations that do not host income  generating tournaments. One ITF National Federation President once said to me  – “It seems like we Tennis Federations pay for everything that loses money!” 

Now I know this analogy of a shop is not a perfect comparison with the top tournaments. These tournaments pay fees to the ATP and WTA Tour and they also pay a lot to the players at the events in prize money, appearance money, accommodation and food etc. The fact that the players can use their prize money to pay their coaching team sounds good, but in 90% of the cases the coaching team at these events were not involved in the development of the players in the  player’s formative years up to age 20. 

Let me pause for a moment to make an important point…  

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