When you see the top players picking up vast cheques at the major tournaments, the question of entry fees probably doesn’t even occur to you. At that level, it probably doesn’t occur to the players either: if Djokovic expects to pick up $500,000 at the end of the week, whether or not he is asked to pay a minimal fee to enter the event makes no difference to him. Lower down the rankings, however, any entry fees that players are asked to pay will make a significant dent in their meager earnings, meaning that they will be very well aware of what they are being charged. So, which events actually charge entry fees?
At the top level, tennis players do not need to pay entry fees. As entry fees are designed to cover the costs of the event, there is no need for them at the big tournaments as these generate revenue from sponsors and ticket sales. However, at lower levels, prize funds are very small and costs are covered by charging players an entry fee.
How Pro Tennis Entry Fees Work
On the main ATP Tour and the secondary ATP Challenger Tour, there are no entry fees. Even the least lucrative Challenger events, with their modest prize funds of around $55,000, cover their costs without the need to ask players to pay.
In truth, it would be completely pointless asking for entry fees, as even first-round losers receive more in prize money than they would realistically be asked to pay to enter: they would be giving the money to the tournament only to receive it back a few days later.
There is actually one rare exception to this rule. If a player plays (perhaps by means of a wild card) in an ATP Tour 250 event or above, and that player is not a member of the ATP Tour (for which a subscription is required), then a service fee of between $100 and $400 must be paid.
This is normally deducted from their prize money and maybe offset the cost of joining the ATP for that year. The situation is similar for female players on the WTA Tour, except that if a non-member plays in one of their tournaments, an administration fee of $250 must be paid.
Do Tennis Players Pay To Enter Grand Slams?
The ITF rulebook states that there should be no entry fees for Grand Slam events. For many players, even getting into qualifying for a Grand Slam is a major achievement and gives them an opportunity of earning important ranking points and prize money. Any entry fee would be swamped by the prize money, so charging one would be pointlessly bureaucratic and time-consuming.
Does The Tennis US Open Have An Entry Fee?
Since the tournament is organized by the ITF, the US Open comes under the same heading as the other Grand Slam events, which means no entry fee can be charged.
Entry Fees At Lower Levels
Professional tennis players whose ranking is not high enough to earn them entry to ATP Tour, ATP Challenger, or WTA Tour events will need to pay entry fees for the tournaments they play. This mainly applies to the ITF World Tennis Tour events, which are the lowest level of international professional tournaments.
These will offer prize funds of $15,000 or $25,000 for men, and $15,000 to $100,000 for women. The discrepancy between men and women is explained by the fact that the WTA does not run an equivalent of the Challenger Tour, so there are more lucrative ITF events to fill the gap.
The ITF rules specify maximum entry fees of $40 for players involved in singles and doubles and $20 for those playing doubles only. It is likely that tournaments will charge the maximum fee to maximize their income, and there will be no reduction in the ‘singles and doubles’ entry fee if a player cannot gain entry to the doubles.
The fees outlined above may seem trivial, but most ‘professional’ players on the ITF World Tennis Tour are essentially paying to play, as their weekly expenses will vastly outweigh their prize money earnings, even if they are doing well. They are hoping to earn enough ranking points to gain entry into more lucrative tournaments. These entry fees are just another cost they must bear, and it does seem slightly ironic that the only players asked to pay entry fees are those who can least afford it.
At the amateur level, it will be expected that players play an entry fee, or league fee, to cover the costs of any competition they play in. Still, these players generally will not mind, as they realize that there is a cost involved in pursuing their hobby.
However, aspiring professionals would certainly benefit from reducing or eliminating such entry fees, as they are usually struggling to make ends meet.
Top pros do not have to pay entry fees, despite the fact that they probably spend more on their laundry each week than they would have to spend on fees. At lower levels, players who are financially stretched do have to pay entry fees. Perhaps if the ATP and WTA charged some levy on prize money and/or tournament sanctioning fees, this could be transferred to the ITF to cover entry fees for up and coming players? As things stand, the situation seems unfair.