“We were chatting with a pro player that we helped out and we asked them…
“We were chatting with a pro player that we helped out and we asked them a few questions about life for him on tour. We were amazed at some of his answers to the question.
What is tough about life on the road?
After hearing about how things roll for lower ranked players, we find ourselves totally blessed!
I was lucky to start my career 15 years ago working at the top level with Monica Seles, and Giselle working with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. We have never seen the hardship described below, but we are aware they exist.
We don’t want to slag professional tennis in any way, we want the general tennis community to know what life is like, for an aspiring tennis player. We want to help educate young players on what they need to prepare for and push through, in order to be in the top 100.
Male players rankings sit between 1-1000. The circumstances we are talking about below relate to players ranked 200 and below. Considering they are 800 of the best players in the world it was a real surprise to us the standards they live and play in, when in fact many other professional sports (Soccer, Golf, Basketball, NFL, Car racing) whose athletes sit within the upper to bottom top 1000 are sitting a lot better off then these players financially.
Here are some of the things we found out and what aspiring players need to prepare themselves for:
- Loneliness – When you lose, most of the time you’re alone. Most players cannot afford anyone to travel with them. It is not nice sitting in your room after a loss.
- Costs – Travel (need to travel globally) hotels, food, and laundry, stringing, equipment. Most lower tier tournaments don’t offer accommodation, food, laundry or transport. It can cost a player $80,000 a year to keep themselves going. That cost just includes yourself, what if you would like a tennis strength and conditioner, coach or even your partner to come along.
- Washing – Trying to find washing facilities. Tournaments are not required to provide free laundry for players for lower tier tournaments. Imagine you just finished a long day at the courts, and you have to head down to the laundry mat to do your washing.
- Luggage – Bags getting lost, happens at least 3 times a year. No rackets or gear. There have been times players have to borrow clothes and equipment from other players. A lot of players try to limit their luggage space due to differing airline baggage allowances.
- Losing – Knowing you’re a good chance of losing every week. Only one person wins a tournament, odds are stacked against you each week. It can be challenging losing first round 4 weeks in a row, especially if you are traveling solo.
- Sickness – The chances of getting sick are higher due to jetlag, bacteria on flights, lack of sleep, traveling to different countries with foreign illnesses. There will be many times you will have to play not feeling 100%.
- Tennis Injuries – Often not having anyone to treat you at tournaments (one physio for 32 players). Getting treatment can be very hard for players, especially if they have a certain tennis injury and need specific care.
- Weather – Hanging around smaller tournaments during rain periods, etc., more often the facilities are not as good as you maybe expect.
- Travel – There will be many times flights are canceled or hotel accommodation hasn’t been confirmed and you become stranded and have nowhere to go. For some players, this can be frightening.
- Communication – Some tournaments are in countries that don’t speak your language. It can get quiet frustration for players if they can’t communicate.
- Food – Not being able to spend money on decent food because of the costs. Good food can be very pricey in some countries. As an athlete, it is imperative you eat well, but sometimes in certain countries, this is challenging. I knew a tennis player who ate oats or porridge for breakfast lunch and dinner because they couldn’t afford to buy food.
- Hydration – Paying for your own drinks at tournaments, can also add up. In some countries you cannot drink tap water, so you need to buy your own water. When players are drinking 4-5 liters of water a day, it can get very expensive for something that you may not have to pay for at home.
These are just some of the challenge’s players face. Every individual has his or her own special needs as well. These can be hard to manage in foreign countries with minimal support.
My biggest concern is that there are players playing at a level very close to the top 100, who are not getting enough coaching, support, tennis fitness training and body treatment that they need.
In these situations all you can do, is manage as best you can and control what you can control; What you eat and drink, how you recover (stretch, foam roll, tennis yoga, mobility) how you construct your tennis fitness training, how much sleep you get and how many tournaments you play. Getting these areas right is up to the individual and ultimately will lead to a positive or negative outcome.
Wanting to do something and actually doing something are two totally different things. Doing something involves commitment and action. Not many players these days rocket to the top, most players spend years slogging it out before life gets easier and more comfortable.
I know for a fact there were times Sam Stosur, in her earlier days, had spent nights sleeping at airports.
We think all tennis players deserve a huge amount of respect for their continued efforts. In our opinion, the players who hang in there for years and years and eventually make the top 100 deserve the riches and everything else that come with it.
It would be nice to see the standard for the lesser tournaments improve to allow players a more comfortable experience and the ability to play their best tennis.
Let’s see what the future holds.”