Coronavirus: Lower-ranked tennis players struggle for survival

Tennis fans worldwide follow icons, whose multi-million dollar annually make as big headlines as their presence on the court in the circuit make. But seldom do the fraternity realise the hardships faced by lower-ranked players, who throng qualifiers at the big events. An appearance in the main round bring several hundred dollars which more often them not does not even make up for their travel and training expenses.

These players have been left lurching amidst uncertainties and struggle for survival as global Coronavirus pandemic has brought the tennis world to a standstill. There were players who would rely on the professional circuit for survival on whatever little they could make. That group of tennis pros is the worst hit.

Numerous players outside the top 100 ranking survive on coaching and by playing in the smaller professional tournaments.

Georgian player Sofia Shapatava according to media reports had pleaded with the International Tennis Federation to help out the hundreds of players who lost their livelihoods when the men’s and women’s tours went into a three-month lockdown.

“Players lower ranked than 250 will not be able to buy food in two-three weeks’ time,” Shapatava had pleaded. She had been disappointed with the response though. “I honestly don’t think so (they will help),” she said. “They replied that their plate is full and they will come back to me as soon as they can. But after that email they did not reply with anything.”

Shapatava, the world No 371, is a 16-year veteran of the tour. But she plays mostly secondary ITF events, a world away from the gilded Grand Slam world inhabited by multi-millionaires Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

To put thing in perspective, while top ranked women’s pro has earned $1,078,902 in annual prize purse, collective earning of the six players at the lowest pedestal will not make even a decibel percentage of this.

WTA TOUR: Annual earnings of 6 lowest ranked players
Player – Nationality Annual Earning ($)
Sevil Yudasheva – Uzbekistan 2,071
Kseniya Yersh – Belarus 310
Yepes Medina – Colombia 184
Hwui Wi – South Korea 1,189
Federica Trevisan – Italy 37
Maria Torres Murcia – Colombia 1,262

Shapatava has banked $354,000 in career prize money from almost 1,500 singles and doubles matches. Barely $3,000 has come her way since the turn of the year after events in Andrezieux-Bouthion in France, Midland in Michigan, Nicholasville in Kentucky and the Californian venue of Rancho Sante Fe.

Coronavirus has brought all tennis to a standstill until June 8 at the earliest. The entire clay court season has been wiped out with the French Open shifted to September-October instead of its traditional May-June slot.