Wednesday 1 April 2020

Tennis Players Struggling to Put Food on the Table

The implications of Coronavirus are affecting sport from top to bottom. 

With all tournaments put on hold, we see the difference between the top-flight players and those who were struggling to make ends meet. 

The Coronavirus has made life difficult for many pro players 

We have seen great acts of charity with the likes of Novak Djokovic who pledged 1 million euros to buy medical equipment for his native Serbia. While Rafa Nadal has asked Spanish athletes to help raise 11 million euros to fight Coronavirus. 

Added to those generous efforts, Roger Federer is giving 1 million Swiss Frances to vulnerable families in Switzerland. 

However, professional tennis players who are down the pecking order have a very different story to tell. 

For instance, Georgia's Sofia Shapatava, ranked 375th in the women's singles is desperate for financial support and started a petition asking for support from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to support lower-level players. 

The 31-year-old has seen 1,350 signatures on her online petition. She said: ''Not many will be able to support their everyday life and then come back to playing after three months without competition.''

The World Tennis Association (WTA) which runs the tennis circuit, has suspended all tournaments until early June after countries locked down their borders due to the flu-like virus. 

Players who would normally be jetting around the world, are now busy on social media giving support, home workout routines, cooking, dancing and just about everything else. 

While top players can win millions for each tournament - lower-level players struggle to make ends meet with the 2018 International Review Panel report addressed betting and integrity issues that lower-tier players may be susceptible to corruption because of the struggle to make a living. 

It has been assessed that the top 350 players make money from their sport, with many only breaking even. 

Tennis governing bodies have attempted to improve pay and conditions but it hasn't proven enough for those who rely solely on winnings. 

With the pandemic, many players are struggling to put food on the table. 

For example, Britain's Tara Moore, who is ranked 447th in the singles earned $2,800 this year before the shutdown.

She said: ''It is very weird to listen that professional tennis players struggle with food, but that is reality," she wrote in a blog. "Half of the people I know work on (the) side, coach or play club matches, and since the world is on shutdown that is impossible to do. "I will not say that I am in the worst position on the planet, honestly I am healthy, I will have food on the table and my family is doing good, but I know people who feel far worse than me."

Many players are having to dip into their savings or depending on friends and family in these difficult times. 

However, Prajnesh Gunneswaran said:   

"Being laid off in a regular job means having to look for work. In our profession we don't have that issue," he told Reuters. "So in that sense, we are better off than others. So it really comes down to how long this period is for ... usually outside 250 players barely manage to break even."

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