It seems like only Wimbledon hasn’t been caught off guard with this coronavirus shutdown. The majority of the tennis world is going through an existential crisis. Lower-level players, as well as their coaches, are in a dire situation, while tournaments, especially smaller ones, are also finding it hard to stay afloat.
As I noted in my article about Naomi Broady, who considered supermarket work to make a living in this critical period, tennis players are independent contractors and now that they are not playing tournaments they have zero income. The situation is not hard for top-ranked millionaires, but all those in the lower echelons are struggling to make ends meet as go paycheck to paycheck.
While the WTA pretty much stated that they have no funds to relieve the pressure weighing down on the lower-level professionals and all they can do is maximize earning opportunities by organizing some tournaments during what is typically off-season.
In the meantime, American Kristie Ahn and other members of the WTA Player Council are in the rush to find solutions:
We know we’re headed in the right direction but we’re not only racing against the numbers, but also just time. Because the longer this decision takes, the more players are concerned about making it week to week, so definitely we’ve got two big factors.
The 96th-ranked Ahn stated that there are a couple of options and hopefully at least one of them will be realized, but it is still unclear where the money will come from.
The American, who is trying to de-stress by posting amusing TikTok videos, admitted that she’s struggling mentally:
I swear every day in the shower I have like an existential crisis of like, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Is this something I want to keep doing?’
Obviously it’s not just the downside, this is the worst side of sport, tennis actually, that you have no job security; there’s no work-from-home for us.
We don’t know anything, it’s pretty much like we’ve been laid off for now until the WTA can turn up with a financial plan. Definitely it takes a toll mentally.
Coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who led Serena Williams to ten of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, is also standing up for players in the lower tiers, saying:
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.
We can’t leave lower-ranked players behind anymore. This isn’t right. Tennis needs change. Let’s use this free time to start a discussion.
Tom Hill, world No.20 Maria Sakkari’s coach, explained how the coronavirus shutdown will probably cause a lot of partnerships to break up, as most coaches get paid per week, solely for the weeks they spend with their players, which means most of them are also out of work at the moment.
I’d say most coaches are probably not getting any money right now. And I believe there will be a lot of coaches and players that split, and probably that’s going to be a lot to do with money if I’m honest. That won’t happen with Maria and I, but I think it’ll come out in the next few months.
I strongly believe that tennis will survive this crisis, but there will inevitably be a lot of casualties. The effects will probably be felt for years to come. Even when play resumes, I expect that a lot less people will decide to travel and attend big events for quite some time. What’s your take on the situation? How do you see tennis in the months/years ahead of us? (source: The National)
Great blog, Marija. I have always been a big fan of the journeyman players in both the WTA and LPGA, because they rely on the grind of playing week to week, to earn those checks and then sometimes only make enough to cover expenses. There is a player on the LPGA tour, Jasmine Suwannapura, who is from Thailand, but lives in Ashburn, Virginia and has to live with a roommate in an apartment who is a hairdresser. She won her first tournament last year for the prize money of $250,000. It’s is hard for some decent players to get sponsorships as well. Just look at Hsieh Su-wei! When all gets back to normal-and who knows when that will be- I will continue to go to both WTA and LPGA tournaments here in the U.S. I have tickets to the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this year and also the Womens (golf) U.S. Open in Houston..which was postponed from June to December!
Thank you, Jim. I think it’s important to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. I think tennis fans often don’t realize how hard it is for players who are not at the very top to sustain their careers. This coronavirus crisis is only making the situation indefinitely harder. My projection is not so positive. I think a lot less people will attend tournaments, especially with all the travel restrictions that will be in place for a long time. But even without those restrictions, a lot of people have lost their jobs and will not have enough money to spend on things that are not absolutely necessary. Tennis will recover, I have no doubt about that, but it will happen later rather than sooner.