Ranking the 25 Most Powerful People in Tennis

Jeremy EcksteinFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2013

Ranking the 25 Most Powerful People in Tennis

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    Tennis has continued to grow into a powerful global sport. It performs in international venues and has been a major platform for both men's and women's sports. There are billions of dollars behind the ATP and WTA tours, television, broadband coverage and traditional participation.

    Some of the people who shape tennis are CEOs who are investing millions. Others have influential visions through their powerful positions or rhetoric.

    There are also powerful tennis broadcasters, ex-players and modern stars with great commercial and sports brand appeal. There's a wide variety of factors and participants.

    Who are the powerful figures that most influence tennis?

25. Andy Murray

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    Why He Wields Power: Andy Murray is still trying to catch up to his larger tennis rivals, but his Wimbledon victory in July 2013 may be the impetus to greater monetary earnings and status.

    For example, Patrick Rishe for Fobes.com projects "Murray’s annual endorsement earnings to be at least on par with (those of) Djokovic by the end of fiscal 2013."

    What’s His Impact? He is Great Britain's newest hero and there is talk of him receiving knighthood. Never underestimate a nation's sporting hero who has charted new territory in the modern era. Will the UK nurture future generations of tennis aspirants?

24. Bjorn Borg

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    Why He Wields Power: Bjorn Borg was the first true superstar athlete of the Open era. He became an icon in Europe for winning the French Open and Wimbledon a combined 11 times. It was his rock star appeal, good looks and Fila clothing that made him a legendary brand.

    His net worth is estimated at $28 million and he has continued with business and fashion ventures.

    What’s His Impact? He has always had presence, and his appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon late last decade added greater aura to the rivalry and record of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

    Also, he still shows up at the Masters 1000 tournament where he resides in Monte Carlo.

     

23. Billie Jean King

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    Why She Wields Power: Long ago, Billie Jean King stood up for female tennis players by winning the famous Battle of the Sexes against Bobby Riggs.

    Her Hall-of-Fame playing career would end up as a launching pad for promoting more professionalism and pay for the WTA. She helped form unions and speak out for many kinds of causes.

    What’s Her Impact? She won numerous awards due to her courage and influence on issues in and out of tennis. In 1990, Life magazine named her one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century.

    Recently King and John McEnroe spoke out about performance enhancing drugs in tennis, opining that tennis is a clean sport. She continues to be a respected leader and speaker.

     

22. Ion Tiriac

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    Why He Wields Power: Ion Tiriac was a national hero to Romanian tennis and coached notable greats including Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Goran Ivanisevic.

    He parlayed an excellent early Open-era career into that of wealthy businessman and innovator. He sold stakes in banking, auto leasing and other ventures to Western companies, according to Forbes.com. This allowed him to buy into Romanian real estate and Mercedes Benz.

    What’s His Impact? He owns the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, and in 2012 proved so influential he was able to showcase an ill-fated experiment of creating blue clay. Not everyone was happy, but the idea flopped and Madrid returned to hosting its tennis on red clay in 2013.

    He will be back with more investments and ideas. Fobes.com listed him in their top 1000 billionaires. Fobes adds that he would love to turn Madrid into a fifth Grand Slam.

21. Chris Evert

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    Why She Wields Power: Chris Evert established her star in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She was particularly beloved as an appealing down-to-earth superstar, admired for her fighting spirit and 18 Grand Slam titles.

    Evert's net worth is ranked No. 14 of all time for tennis and career earnings, according to celebrityworth.com, just behind the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

    What’s Her Impact? Years after her tennis celebrity stint, she has still participated with TV tennis commentary and analyses, and currently works with ESPN.

    She also runs the Evert Tennis Academy at Boca Raton, Florida.

20. Mary Carillo

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    Why She Wields Power: Mary Carillo, once a journeyman tennis player in the early days of the WTA has become perhaps the most recognized and significant female tennis broadcaster of the past three decades. She has parlayed her success into a net worth of $5 million, according to celebrityworth.com.

    What’s Her Impact? She is equally adept and respected in calling both women's and men's tennis from the broadcast booth. She is all over tennis television coverage including roles with NBC, CBS, HBO, ESPN and the Winter Olympics. She has won numerous awards for her candidness in broadcasting.

    Carillo was also named the best tennis analyst of the last decade by Sports Illustrated: "Carillo has excelled in a sport that far too often soft-pedals commentary because of the many conflicts of interests and relationships."

    She has also written three books and was a member of the WTA's Board of Directors.

19. Serena Williams

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    Why She Wields Power: Serena Williams has reigned over the WTA as the greatest player of the 21st century, but her 16 Grand Slams still may not match her status as the most important tennis player in the United States. Her rivalry with older sister Venus was compelling for tennis and influence in America.

    What’s Her Impact? The name "Serena" has become a commercial brand matched by very few athletes. She has created a splash in fashion, entertainment and for numerous charities.

    She has been a model for female tennis players who look to expand their success from tennis into commercial enterprises. Forbes.com lists her presence in the top 50 for global influence in TV/radio, press, social and marketability.

    She has represented Nike, Gatorade, Wilson and Apple iPhones among her endorsements.

18. Novak Djokovic

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    Why He Wields Power: Novak Djokovic became the No. 1 player in tennis in 2011 and has continued to add to his legacy. Forbes.com ranks him as the No. 28 highest paid athlete, chiefly through endorsements from Head, Adidas, Uniqlo and Mercedes Benz.

    What’s His Impact? Djokovic became a national hero in his home country Serbia, receiving awards and acclaim at all levels, according to CNN.com. He is an ambassador for tennis and a symbol of improving diplomacy worldwide.

    Serbian Tennis Federation president Vuk Jeremics said "No athlete in our history has become such a national hero. And as far as Serbia's image abroad is cncerned—can you think of a better public diplomacy vehicle?"

17. Li Na

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    Why She Wields Power: Li Na may have single-handedly opened the door to Chinese tennis. Her victory at the 2011 French Open was the first Grand Slam by a player to come out of Asia. The French Open final received more viewers than the American Superbowl.

    She is listed by Forbes.com as the No. 85 highest paid athlete in the world with endorsements for Nike, Rolex, Mercedes Benz, Samsung and others.

    What’s Her Impact? She has become a national hero to China. She was recently named as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, and may soon be the highest-paid female athlete in the world, according to Time via thebricspost.com.

    She also has a Bachelors of Arts and Science at Huazhong University.

16. Rod Laver

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    Why He Wields Power: Rod Laver was the king of Australia's golden age of tennis, and he is legendary for his calendar Slams in 1962 and 1969. He was the standard that ushered in the Open era of tennis, and a living symbol to the rise of the Australian Open.

    What’s His Impact? Rod Laver Arena is the mecca of Australian Open tennis. His statue graces the entrance and he is even featured on a postage stamp. Laver is still a good interview when offering up his perspectives on today's great players. He is still an ambassador for tennis.

15. Maria Sharapova

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    Why She Wields Power: Maria Sharapova has won four Grand Slam titles and held the No. 1 ranking, but she has become a major brand in the United States and across the globe. She models and has appeared in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue.

    Endorsements and fashion deals with Nike, Evian and Samsung will now be alongside the new Porsche deal she struck in April, according to ESPN.com.

    What’s Her Impact? Sharapova is highly marketable because she appeals to both females and males, according to ESPN.com. She has also invested long-term with her own candy line, Sugarpova, which stretches her brand out to kids.

    Her earnings at about $29 million dollars last year make her the No. 22 highest paid athlete in the world and the No. 1 female athlete, according to Forbes.com.

14. Martina Navratilova

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    Why She Wields Power: As a player who dominated tennis in the 1980s, Martina Navratilova might be considered the greatest tennis player when considering her resume with singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

    Her tennis rivalry with Chris Evert is still considered one of the greatest in sports history, captured in numerous ways through journalism and television.

    What’s Her Impact? She has worked in media, calling tennis matches and speaking out on the sport. She is very well-known for supporting underprivileged causes and being a symbol for gay rights. She was recently cited by NBA player Jason Collins as being an inspiration and pioneer for him.

    She is a respected speaker who can command between $30,000-$50,000 per appearance, according to tseworld.com. Her topics range from animal and gay rights to fighting communism and, of course, tennis.

     

13. Rafael Nadal

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    Why He Wields Power: Rafael Nadal rose to global prominence through his successful mastery of his rivalry with Roger Federer. He captured the fascination of the tennis world and sports at large through his commercial and personal appeal.

    Nadal's endorsements with Nike and his watch sponsor Richard Mille help him to the No. 30 rank on the highest paid athlete list, according to Forbes.com.

    What’s His Impact? Nadal has perhaps influenced tennis more than any player of the past decade. His ultra-competitive nature, physical fitness and groundstrokes have produced more emulators among the ATP.

    He also represented the ATP players until 2012, and has since struck out on his own with his own management agency.

12. Jon Muir

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    Why He Wields Power: Jon Muir is the head of Wilson Racquet Sports and president of the Tennis Industry Association. That means a lot of equipment sales to professional and amateur tennis players worldwide, as the leading brand for tennis.

    What’s His Impact? Muir was named 2009 Tennis Person of the Year. He outlined his objectives on wordpress.com, which were increasing revenue, attracting new people to tennis and providing more transparency in communication and awareness of tennis.

11. Fernando Soler

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    Why He Wields Power: Fernando Doler is the Head of the tennis division for IMG. It's a powerful marketing machine that once represented Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and represents the likes of Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova and about one-third of tennis's top stars.

    It also handles fashion and other business ventures, including goods with the Wimbledon logo.

    What’s His Impact? IMG is able to make an impact in managing several tournaments and sit on the board of the pro tour circuit's governing board, according to Neil Harmon for the London Times via asahi.com. "Would it be that strange if some decisions swung in IMG's favor?" Harmon questioned.

     

10 John McEnroe

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    Why He Wields Power: Decades later, John McEnroe has turned his talents from Tennis Genius to TV personality. He is loved and hated, but never ignored. McEnroe has opinions and perspectives that span the history of the Open Era as if he were a Paleolithic witness.

    He was also one of the first big Nike athletes, setting the standard for commercial appeal and image. His net worth at an estimated $50 million dollars ranks him No. 8 among tennis players of all time.

    What’s His Impact? He continues to be the lead color commentator for numerous combinations of tennis broadcasts, often adding technical analyses and opinions about the greatest players of all time.

    He is widely popular when he appears to play tennis doubles at marketed events. His influence has transcended his playing days with attempts to host a late night show and other appearances in pop culture.

9. Nick Bollettieri

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    Why He Wields Power: Nick Bollettieri developed the powerful tennis academy at Bradenton, Florida that developed some of the biggest tennis stars of the 1990s. Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce helped put his American tennis brand on the map.

    What’s His Impact? The IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program is now a global institution of tennis camps that has more recently nurtured international stars such as Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Tommy Haas.

    Many other tennis academies have sprung up in recent years, mimicking Bolletieri's model.

    He continues to teach, mentor, write and discuss tennis. His DVD series and handbooks on tennis have given more access to millions more seeking for more tennis and coaching fundamentals.

8. Ken Solomon

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    Why He Wields Power: Ken Solomon is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for The Tennis Channel. In just 10 years of existence, Solomon has helped guide The Tennis Channel to be a major source of coverage for all of the Grand Slam tournaments and many of the other top venues.

    What’s His Impact? It was fortunate timing for the birth of The Tennis Channel in 2003, on the eve of Roger Federer's first Grand Slam title. The Tennis Channel now reaches 34 million homes in America.

    Solomon is proud of the vision and outlook for his sport as reported by Barry Janoff for NYsportsjournalism.com: "...the way we are able to bring the game to people has made it more accessible. So what we are living through now is a player, fan and business renaissance of tennis."

7. Jean Gachassin

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    Why He Wields Power: Jean Gachassin is the President of the French Tennis Federation, which means he oversees Roland Garros and French Davis and Fed Cup competitions.

    What’s His Impact? He is a powerful voice for clay-court tennis, which is significant considering about one-third of tennis matches are played on clay.

    Gachassin and the Rench Tennis Federation flexed their muscle by upholding their policy to not allow French players to participate in the Olympics if they have a private coach. Because of this, Marion Bartoli was not permitted to compete in London last year.

6. Richard Lewis

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    Why He Wields Power: Following Ian Ritchie's departure as the All England Club Chief Executive, Richard Lewis has stepped in with impressive tennis credentials as a fan, player and business leader. He now heads the crown jewel of all tennis tournaments.

    What’s His Impact? He stepped in for a successful 2012 Olympics and now has outlined a vision for continuous improvement and upgraded building improvements, according to The Telegraph.

     

5. Roger Federer

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    Why He Wields Power: Roger Federer's tennis has created new records and hastened the evolution of 21st century tennis. He has brought in millions of new fans to tennis, and is still the feature attraction and revenue builder wherever he shows up to play. TV and Internet streaming of tennis revolves around him.

    His endorsements including powerful brands such as Nike, Rolex and Wilson totaled over $65 million last year (ten times his tennis prize money), according to Forbes.com. Forbes also listed Federer as the world's No. 2 highest paid athlete.

    What’s His Impact? How many thousands of young kids have changed their approach to training and tennis, not to mention buying apparel and equipment?

    Federer is also President of the ATP Player's Council, and has been judicious in representing all levels of players on the tour. He has spearheaded fund raising for many charities.

    The Federer brand will likely magnify its influence as he slides into retirement. He has the charisma, diplomacy and authority to help enact many positive changes for tennis's future.

     

4. Stacey Allaster

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    Why She Wields Power: Stacey Allaster took over as the Chairman and CEO of the WTA in 2009. She was listed by Totalsports.com as the No. 12 most influential woman in sports.

    What’s Her Impact? Allaster has successfully garnered equal prize money for women tennis players in all the major tournaments. Women's tennis has enormous media presence worldwide.

    Allaster revealed her ambitious nature to push the WTA forward as a greater business, in an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times.

3. Mark Young

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    Why He Wields Power: Following the passing of ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett, the ATP management team and directors will have big shoes to fill.

    Mark Young, CEO ATP Americas and Chief Legal Media Officer has been highly instrumental in the growth of tennis.

    What’s His Impact? Young has negotiated major sponsorship and TV deals for the ATP. He has continued to develop cutting-edge applications for live streaming and scoring, according to the ATP web site.

    He is also the developer of tennis' anti-doping policies and will likely see increased scrutiny from media and tennis fans if some players are discovered to be using performance-enhancing drugs.

2. Larry Ellison

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    Why He Wields Power: Larry Ellison is most known as a rich, American businessman and CEO of Oracle Corporation, and is listed by Forbes.com as the fifth wealthiest man in the world with $43 billion.

    He is also the owner of the Indian Wells tournament and seems to have good influence with Rafael Nadal: "It means a lot for me, and especially for tennis, to have somebody like Larry who is supporting our sport," Nadal said, according to scpr.org.

    What’s His Impact? He is a tennis nut fascinated with historical rivalries such as John McEnroe vs. Jimmy Connors and now with Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal.

    At 68 years old, he may want to further his legacy into tennis, as evidenced by his plans to build a tennis training academy on the island Lanai.

    Other tennis tournaments are worried that Ellison's deep pockets will open player demands for more money on other tournaments, as cited in the aforementioned link.

    "No one can stop Larry Ellison," said Neil Harmon, tennis writer for the Times of London, also in scpr.org.

1. John Skipper

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    Why He Wields Power: John Skipper has his hands everywhere for ESPN's coverage of all sports on TV and broadband. In 2012, he helped ESPN take Wimbledon tennis from NBC. He is ready for increasing competition from other sports television challenges, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    What’s His Impact? Tennis is far more accessible to TV and broadband streaming on ESPN3. There are many 500 level tournaments as well as Masters 1000 tournaments showing several early rounds and weekend tennis.

    The future is wide open here and his decision making could determine much of the financial stakes for tennis in the decades to come.