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WTA Tour: Heaven for the Elite, Hell for Rank-and-Files

Michael CasentiCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2010

Maria Sharapova is one of the most financially successful tennis player of all time.
Maria Sharapova is one of the most financially successful tennis player of all time.

When children start to become adults, and enter high school, parents often advise their children to set off into prestigious fields- medicine, law, journalism, to name a few.  And unless showing astounding athletic ability, a child is often steered away from professional sports.  But the few with enormous potential in sports, rarely step their foot upon tennis.  After all, tennis is a lonely occupation, where every player is your opponent, every player your enemy, every player your rival.  Tennis has, though, seen players who have succeeded, and others, who were not so fortunate.

If you're a Serena, Venus, Henin, Clijsters, Sharapova, and even lesser known players like Stosur, Jankovic, and Wozniacki, life on the tour, though demanding, is sweet as a carrot cake fresh from the oven.  But go down the ranks and their life, day-in, day-out, is well, sweet as a glass of freshly squeezed lemon.

Once a player hits the sweet spot, and remembers where it is, nothing can stop the money flowing in, with more and more dough added up with endorsements, tournament prize money, appearance fees, and so on.  Take Maria Sharapova.  She is just ranked inside the top 20, and though she is a great player with three grand slam titles, she hasn't been playing well recently.  Yet, because she has so much publicity, and has been in the elite before, she makes millions every year.  Imagine how much Serena Williams would make if she had the looks of Sharapova.

On the other hand, a virtually unknown player makes no positive financial impact on her bank account. In fact, it is fair to say playing on the Tour flushes money down the drain for some players.  I recently read my subscribed B/R Tennis Newsletter and clicked on an article about how Roger Federer (World No. 3 on ATP Tour) met his love, Mirka Vavrinec.  Vavrinec was a good player, at one point ranking in the top 100, but her total career prize money is a head-scratching amount.  $260,832.  Had it not been for Roger Federer, I don't think Vavrniec would have been able to pay her bills.  Her prize money was far less than the cost of coaches, fitness trainers, restaurant fees, tennis attire, airplane tickets, and gas bills.  

Sam Stosur, now a top ten player, but a few years ago, a nobody, summed it up perfectly, "Sleeping in a train station in Japan with other players and strapping all our bags together so they wouldn’t get stolen. Using blankets from hotel rooms and pillows from airlines.  The things you do to make it on the tour."  This quote from Stosur just opens our eyes up to how menial life can be for players under the radar.  To a casual passerby, Stosur and her group may have looked like some homeless foreign women who couldn't find a place to stay.  And nobody, not even the most delusional being, would want to be without a home.  

But travel to the other side of the spectrum and you see the Williams sisters living and loving their lives.  They are part owners of the Miami Dolphins, models, actresses, authors, fashion designers, philanthropists.  And they are all of those, because they have their big-time bucks.  As the saying goes, "The wealthier get wealthier."  Don't be surprised if someday, these two tennis divas are knocking on the door to be worth (together) half a billion.  

The players on the WTA Tour are divided into two distinct sections, having many names.  Mighty and Meek.  Powerful and Powerless.  Wealthy and Impoverished.  I could list more, but I suppose it would get boring.  A WTA player in an enviable position is one to bring the dough, but the envious "lesser players"  might be regretting their choices of choosing tennis instead of a different profession. 

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