It is well known that there are a lot of expenses which the families of junior tennis players have to meet. They may receive some assistance from a national governing body if their child is highly thought of, but this will often just contribute to the cost of training, which can by itself cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. Travel to international tournaments can represent a big cost, alongside coaching, entry fees, stringing, equipment, clothing, etc. Given all of this, it would be a great help if players were to earn money for their efforts. So, do junior tennis players get paid?
Junior tennis players can get paid from sponsorship deals, but junior tennis tournaments do not offer prize money. Players’ chances of getting a good sponsorship deal are enhanced if they are ranked well, which requires success in the more prestigious tournaments.
Once junior players are old enough, they can also enter professional events to supplement their income.
Do Junior Tennis Players Receive Prize Money?
Junior tennis events do not carry prize money, as it is considered inappropriate to subject children to the pressure of directly playing for money.
In practice, of course, the competition for funding and sponsorships can still put the players under a comparable amount of pressure, so all this achieves is to make it more difficult for families to meet their costs.
As players get older, the best of them may find it worthwhile to enter adult professional events, either at the national or international level, in order to supplement their income. This will be easier for girls than boys, as men increase substantially in strength in their late teens in a way that women do not.
Endorsements For Junior Tennis Players
A product endorsement occurs when a player says that they use product X, and they are paid for saying this. This type of deal is common among the leading players, with Federer and Nadal endorsing razors, watches, etc.
Juniors will not normally get this type of endorsement deal, as the wider public will generally have no idea who they are. They may, on the other hand, be given free or discounted tennis equipment and clothing by manufacturers who hope to remain associated with them if they should eventually become successful professionals.
Very highly ranked juniors, or those with a marketing advantage might even be paid to use certain brands.
How Do Junior Tennis Players Get Sponsorships?
The best way to put yourself on the radar of the big companies is to succeed in some of the most prestigious junior tournaments and build a high ranking. It will help if you represent, through nationality or ethnicity, a market which the companies are keen to develop. A strong social media presence will also be an advantage, as this will help the sponsors reach more potential customers. If you tick all of these boxes, major sponsors are likely to approach you.
Another way for junior tennis players to get sponsorships is to contact brands such as Babolat, Head, and Yonex, which encourage players to approach them via their website, detailing playing achievements and possibly attaching a video.
It is also worth players, coaches, and parents introducing themselves to any local business leaders known to have an affinity for tennis, as these people can sometimes be persuaded to offer financial support in exchange for indirect promotion of their product or organization.
How Do Junior Tennis Rankings Work?
If a player wants to achieve a high junior ranking, it is crucial to understand the mechanics of the system. Another article on this site explains the two most important ranking systems in more detail, but I shall summarise them briefly here.
The USTA junior ranking is based on a ‘points per round’ system, whereby the ranking points awarded an increase in line with the round reached in any given competition. More points are awarded for performances in higher-level tournaments, and bonus points are given for wins over highly ranked opponents.
Doubles performances also contribute towards a player’s ranking but are weighted lower than singles points. A national USTA ranking is derived from the player’s best six singles and doubles results in level 1 to 3 events.
The ITF junior ranking is a world ranking that can only be earned by playing in any grade of international tournament on the ITF junior tour. Higher graded tournaments count for more points. The ranking is constructed, similarly to the USTA ranking, on the basis of the best six singles and doubles results, but there are no bonuses for beating specific players.
What Is The Minimum Age For Juniors To Become Pros?
To play in ATP Tour tennis events, a player must have attained the age of 14. Even then, they are restricted to eight events in that year and 12 while they are 15. There are no limits in subsequent years. Similar limitations apply to women.
As explained earlier, it is almost inconceivable that a male player could be consistently successful against adult professionals at this kind of young age due to the vast strength differential. This difference is far smaller between girls and adult women, so there have been several examples of young teenagers competing well on the main WTA tour, most recently Coco Gauff.
The limitations on the number of events were introduced to prevent young players from suffering from injury and burnout, and giving up the game, as happened in some high-profile cases like that of Andrea Jaeger.
Junior tennis players are only paid indirectly unless they are good enough and strong enough to play against adult professionals. Nonetheless, they have to perform well to earn sponsorship and funding, so the pressures on them are very similar to those on professionals.