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How To Be A Professional Tennis Player

How To Be A Professional Tennis Player
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Professional tennis players often shine under the spotlight during grand slams and major tournaments, captivating audiences with their skill and athleticism. But behind this glamour lies a rigorous, demanding, and often underappreciated journey. This article delves into the complex life of a professional tennis player, revealing the dedication, challenges, and rewards that come with this elite sport.

What Age Do Most Tennis Pros Start Playing?

What many tennis fans don’t realise is that by the time a player becomes Pro they have already been playing at a high level for 10-15 years with continuous intense training. The tennis journey typically begins in early childhood, usually between the ages of 4-10.

Earlier exposure to the sport is normal, with fewer players emerging as pro with a later starting age. Young talents spend countless hours on the court, honing skills and mastering techniques. The skills required for tennis are not just technical ones. Here junior players learn strategy, emotional intelligence, grow as athletes as well as individuals.

You can read our Article 10 Life Lessons From Tennis for more psychological insights:

 

Usually a rigorous tournament schedule is laid out and as they progress, the competition intensifies with national and international junior tournaments. Many junior players leave the sport at this stage because of the intense requirements. The demands are almost equal to that of a Pro player but usually with school work on top!

How To Become A Professional Tennis Player

After juniors most players either apply to represent a college (especially in the United States) or go on to play in Futures and Challengers. Success in these tournaments is crucial for earning ATP or WTA ranking points, necessary for entering higher-level competitions.

To become a full-fledged professional, a player needs to earn enough ranking points to enter main draws of ATP or WTA tours. This is a gradual process, often taking years of competing in lower-tier tournaments.

How Do Pro Tennis Players Train?

A pro tennis player's training regime is intense and diverse. It can vary drastically depending on a Pro’s ranking and income or their immediate access to training staff.

Training at the basic level for a player with lower income would tend to include on court drilling and practice match time, on and off court strength and conditioning, plus some recovery steps such as massage. They may share a coach with several other players to keep costs down.

Those who are higher up the rankings or earning extra money from endorsements will likely have their own traveling coach plus perhaps a Manager, Physiotherapist, Conditioning Coach and Psychologist. Some of the most successful players even have their own traveling nutritionist/chef and a team of 8-15 people who travel with them at all times.

This training regime is a full-time commitment, often requiring six to eight hours a day, and it’s not just about perfecting a forehand or a serve. It's about building an athlete capable of enduring long matches, recovering quickly, outsmarting opponents and traveling over multiple time zones week in week out.

Here's a video giving you some insight into Pro player Holger Rune's training routine:

How Much Do Tennis Players Earn?

Professional tennis, like many sports, exhibits a significant pay gap between its highest-earning stars and those lower in the rankings. But with it being an individual sport it is purely performance based and doesn’t offer the better security of a base salary by being part of a sports team. This disparity is more pronounced than in many other sports.

The top-ranked tennis players (usually those inside the top 50) enjoy lucrative earnings from a combination of prize money, endorsements, and sponsorships. In stark contrast, players outside the top rankings face a different financial reality.

The drop in prize money is steep beyond the upper echelons of the rankings. Lower-ranked players, often those outside the top 100, struggle to earn enough from tournaments to cover their basic expenses, which include travel, coaching, accommodation, equipment, and medical support. These players often have to supplement their income with some on court coaching between tournaments.

How Much Do Pro Players Travel?

It may sound glamorous to travel the world and play tennis for your job. But, think about it for a minute. The average person feels exhausted after travelling and often feels like they need to have a vacation to recover from their vacation!

Now imagine doing this week in, week out, often taking a flight every week or every other week to a different country. Traveling through time zones, dealing with airports and constant jet lag and then having to step on court and perform is not for the faint hearted. This constant travel can be taxing, both physically and mentally. Despite these challenges, the tour offers unique experiences, from playing at historic venues to immersing in diverse cultures. You will get to see parts of the world you may never have seen otherwise. Most Pro players will travel up to 30-50 weeks a year!

How Much Does It Cost To Compete?

To remain competitive, professional tennis players incur substantial costs. The expenses for travel and accommodation can be particularly high, given the global nature of the sport. Coaching fees also add up, especially for players seeking top-tier coaching to improve their game.

There is often a catch-22 situation: to earn more, a player needs to invest in their development, but they need to earn more to afford these investments. Sponsorships can bridge this financial gap, but they're more accessible to high-profile players. These players are more visible, reaching the later stages of big tournaments and getting more media coverage, making them more attractive to sponsors. Lower-ranked players, despite their professional status, often struggle to secure such deals, limiting their income sources.

However, social media offers another source of income and many players, of all ranks, earn extra money as brand ambassadors or affiliates.

Conclusion: More Than Just Trophies

Despite the challenges, being a professional tennis player is immensely rewarding and a testament to what human dedication, passion, and hard work can achieve. It's a life marked by incredible highs and inevitable lows, a journey of continuous growth and relentless pursuit of excellence. While the trophies and accolades are visible symbols of their success, it’s the unseen hours of dedication and perseverance that truly define their journey.

Whether you have won millions of Dollars and multiple Grand Slams or they have just managed to scrape by on the tour for years, most players would’t swap their experiences when asked if they would do it all again. They do it for the love of the game and the sport they represent!

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