Tennis is played and appreciated in most nations around the world. The sport in which we can see the best players of all-time at this moment, is, however, having slow progress in its lowest levels, particularly in India.
In 2017, the ATP World Tour, declared it was increasing prize money remarkably over the next four years. It spelt further boost to elite tournaments. Whereas, Indian players barely manage to gain the right finance as at least Rs 25 lakh a year is needed for a tennis player to bear his/her expenses, which including coaching and travelling.
The International Tennis Federation released results of its inquiry in 2017 of the pro game’s financials. Among the significant conclusions: Only 336 men and 253 women made more than they spent playing Tennis last year. The best 104 men and 104 women get safe admittance to the four Grand Slam tournaments each year.
They’re the players who have a chance to make a lot of money playing tennis. Lose your first match at each one last year, and you would still earn roughly Rs 83 crores. The rest of the players in the world are fighting for meagre financial aids.
Tennis’s finances are particularly harsh. Players are particular contractors who have to cover their own conveyance, apparatus, coaching and — at some events — lodging and food. Almost all of them have to amplify their prize money with funding, maintenance from their national federations or their families, odd jobs or all of the above.
In India, it is particularly problematic because juniors and seniors have a lack of funding in place. A player Niki Poonacha, who mostly plays on the World Tennis Tour, it costs approximately Rs 40-50 lakh a year. For a senior player like India’s No. 1, Sumit Nagal, the cost is around Rs 1.25 crore who is a regular on the Challenger Tours, and now grand slams. For Prajnesh as well, the amount is Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore. It includes training, coaches and travelling to play for 20-25 weeks.
In India, players barely get supported apart from the Olympics or Asian Games. And at present, only Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan — are part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
The new structure by the ITF has meant many of the upcoming players to travel abroad to play in World Tennis Tour events. Eventually, foreign tours will increase the financial burdens of Indian players and they would also have to gain good training, which means more money would be involved.
Despite the staggering success, Nagal had been struggling with financial woes. Nagal received financial aid from the Virat Kohli foundation but it isn’t enough. But in tennis, one still needs a team like all the top 100 players to have coach, fitness, physio, etc. which adds up.
Unfortunately, Indian tennis player doesn’t get the required sponsorship. Everyone looks at a Nadal, Federer or Djokovic performing at the high levels. It is a global sport and the road seems gruellingly tough for an Indian to a breakthrough in singles. They dream of making it into the top-100 rankings and if that is achieved, they could think of making it to the top 70 and so on. Whereas, in Europe, players dream of winning a grand slam. Corporates do not understand the mechanics of the sport and therefore investments come meagrely.