The Economics of Professional Futures Events

When I told people I was stringing at the $15,000 ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem this year, many thought the $15K referred to the winner’s prize money. They were surprised to learn that $15K was the total purse. For both singles and doubles.

ITF Pro Circuit

The prize money breakdown for a $15K ITF Pro Circuit event is as follows:

  • SINGLES PURSE: $11,250
  • Winner: $2,160
  • Finalist: $1,272
  • Semifinalist: $753
  • Quarterfinalist: $438
  • R16: $258
  • R32: $156

So, someone who makes the main draw and loses first round earns $156. Eight of the 32 players in the main draw of the Futures of Winston-Salem were qualifiers. That means they won matches on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in order to qualify. All of them lost their first round main draw matches. So, they earned $156 for 4 days of work.

  • DOUBLES PURSE; $3,750
  • Winning Team: $930
  • Finalists: $540
  • Semifinalists: $324
  • Quarterfinalists: $192
  • R16: $108

There is no qualifying for doubles, so all 16 teams playing doubles are in the main draw. The 8 teams that lost in the first round split $108. If you don’t have a calculator handy that is $54 per person.

FuturesWS2015 (73)

Consider the economics of the tournament winner, Matija Pecotic. He won $2,160, but because he is Croatian the tournament director had to withhold 30% taxes. So his prize money check was $1,512.

I don’t know the full details of his expenses, but he arrived in Winston-Salem on Sunday and left the following Sunday, spending 7 days in town. A possible scenario is as follows:

  • Hotel: 7 nights at $80 = $560
  • Food: 7 days at $40 = $280
  • Stringing: 15 rackets at $16 = $240
  • Transportation: $350
  • TOTAL: $1,430

So, the winner of the tournament may have netted less than $100 for his week’s work.

That means, by far, as the stringer of the tournament I made more than any of the players (second in income for the week only to the ITF Pro Circuit tournament supervisor, who made 50% more than me).

Of course, I also worked more hours than anyone at the tournament other than the tournament director (who really got the short end of the stick). I was on site for 10 days (from 11am the day before qualifying started through the conclusion of the tournament). I arrived two hours before the first match every match day, which was 8:00am for the first 7 days and 9:00am for the semifinals and finals. Even though I was not stringing the whole time, I was on-site and on call for 111 hours over 10 days, averaging just over 1 racket per hours I was on site.

So, I earned $16 an hour. Not bad, but like the players in the tournament, not enough to live on. I string the tournament to supplement my main income and because I enjoy stringing a few tournaments a year for the experience. The players enter Futures events not primarily for the money, but for the ATP ranking points. The money they lose playing in Futures events are an investment in their future as professional tennis players.

By accumulating a few points at a Futures event they can potentially work their way up to Challenger Level events, which pay even more prize money and ranking points, and then to the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of professional tennis, where a player can actually making a living.

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