When we think of tennis players, we usually think of wealth and luxury – living in a mansion in Monte Carlo, owning a nice yacht, and travelling around the world. While this lifestyle is indeed possible for a select number of players, the reality for the vast majority of players is something more like “driving an old car to the next tournament at a remote country club (with only a handful of expectators), sleeping on a friend’s couch, and wondering where the money for next week’s tournament is going to come from.” A lot less luxurious than the first lifestyle, I know.
With the rise of social media in recent years, tennis players who compete at the lower levels of the professional tour have been gaining their own space and their own voice. With this newly found voice, several of them have been trying to bring awareness to the incredible inequality that exists in tennis today, hoping to start a movement that will change how these players are treated and compensated.
You may be thinking ‘well, it can’t be that bad. Don’t all professional athletes get compensated decently?’ Well, it turns out it is that bad, and if every player knew how little they might make they would probably think twice before starting their journey as a professional tennis player.
So how much, on average, do tennis players make? The average tennis player salary between 2015 and 2019 was $113,478 per year (or $1,940 per match) in prize money. The average salary for the #1 ranked player was $14,406,932 per year, while players ranked #1927 made only $1,126 per year.
This average number above is very deceiving, as only 195 (13%) players made more than $100,000 per year, another 69 (5%) made more than $50,000, and 124 (8%) others made more than $20,000. That means that 76% of all players made less than $20,000 a year.
Not great, right? If you continue reading, I’ll show you some more numbers that will paint a good picture of what the current reality of professional tennis players looks like.
The Average Tennis Player Salary
Tennis players can make money in 6 different ways, with prize money and endorsements being the most profitable ones. Prize money is the amount players receive for doing their job – playing tennis – well. Depending on the type of tournament played and on the round reached by the player, this amount changes significantly.
Endorsements, on the other hand, have a lot more to do with the player’s charisma, nationality, or what he or she looks like. These are deals offered by brands who want to have their products associated with a certain player, and seen by millions of people when the player is on TV. While the top players make most of their money from endorsements, these deals are not accessible to lower-ranked players – which means that they rely mostly on prize-money.
Therefore, when determining the average tennis player salary, I will only take into consideration the prize money amount they receive. I’ll touch on how much players can make from endorsement deals at the end, but for purposes of a fair comparison, I’ll keep them out of the calculations.
How Much Do Tennis Players Make A Year?
Being a tennis player can be a very financially-rewarding career – if you can make it all the way to the top. Several of the top tennis players make over $1,000,000 every year in prize money, on top of what they make with exhibitions and endorsement deals. In 2020, Roger Federer was selected as the highest paid athlete in the world, beating names like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lebron James.
On average, the top 5 tennis players in the world make $7,973,904 a year, while players ranked 50 to 100 make an average yearly salary of $510,456. In contrast, players ranked 500 to 1,000 rake an average of $6,996 per year.
The chart below illustrates the difference in pay per year for different levels of rankings. Notice that the yearly salaries for players ranked outside the top 400 are represented in the chart – but the difference between them and the top salaries makes it almost impossible to see those bars.
If you’re interested in learning how much tennis players make per year at different ranking levels, we have included a table with specific numbers. The table below shows the average pay for players at different levels during the years of 2015 and 2019. For reference, we have also included jobs that offer similar pay, so you can keep a better overall perspective.
|Ranking||Average Prize Money / Year||Job With Similar Pay|
|Top 5||$7,973,904||CEO of Chipotle|
|5-10||$3,314,918||CEO of Columbia Sportswear|
|11-15||$2,105,633||CEO of Carvana|
|16-20||$1,613,983||CEO of Chase Corp.|
|21-25||$1,419,484||CEO of Exela Technologies|
|26-30||$1,191,946||CEO of Ingles Market|
|31-35||$1,058,999||CEO of Axsome Therapeutics|
|36-40||$992,805||CEO of NextDecade Corp|
|41-50||$858,914||CEO of Lululemon|
|51-60||$708,794||CEO of KEMET Corp|
|61-70||$639,344||CEO of Miller Industries|
|71-80||$478,822||CEO of Premier Financial Corp|
|91-100||$351,638||CEO of Park Aerospace|
|121-140||$217,381||Lawyer / Finance|
|234-266||$60,978||Entry Level Financial Analyst|
|401-450||$16,955||McDonald’s Crew Worker|
|451-500||$12,832||Living on SS Disability|
|501-550||$11,313||Part-Time Substitute Teacher|
|551-600||$8,965||Part-Time Grocery Bagger|
|601-650||$11,271||Below Minimum Wage|
|651-700||$7,589||Below Minimum Wage|
|701-750||$9,554||Below Minimum Wage|
|751-800||$5,191||Below Minimum Wage|
|801-850||$5,362||Below Minimum Wage|
|851-900||$3,753||Below Minimum Wage|
|901-950||$3,615||Below Minimum Wage|
|951-1000||$3,347||Below Minimum Wage|
|1001-1100||$2,726||Below Minimum Wage|
|1101-1200||$2,403||Below Minimum Wage|
|1201-1300||$1,863||Below Minimum Wage|
|1301-1400||$2,763||Below Minimum Wage|
|1401-1500||$1,108||Below Minimum Wage|
|1501-1927||$828||Below Minimum Wage|
As you can see, only players ranked in the top 300 in the world can make what you would consider reasonable salaries. However, you need to consider the fact that tennis players have very high expenses – coaches’ salaries, traveling, equipment, hotels, meals – which means that only players ranked better than 150 can break even.
How Much Do Tennis Players Make Per Match?
If you’re wondering how much those salaries would mean on a per-match basis, we have broken it down for you. While players at the top do indeed play more matches than players at the bottom, the difference in pay-per-match is still quite insane.
|Ranking||Average PrizeMoney / Match|
How Much Do Tennis Players Make Per Tournament
The unequal prize money distribution happens due to the difference in payout for different tournament levels. As you can see in the table below, The prize money for Grand Slams and ATP tournaments are extremely higher than Challenger or Future tournaments.
The winner of the US Open makes $3,850,000, which is 1,782x what the winner of a Futures 15K makes ($2,160). Even a first round loser in a Grand Slam makes $58,000, which is roughly 27 times what a Futures 15K winner makes.
In order to qualify for Grand Slams, a player usually needs to be ranked among the 104 best players in the world – which means that once you reach that ranking your career goes to a whole new level (financially speaking).
Average Tennis Top 100 Salary
The average top 100 salary during 2015 and 2019 was $1,345,662, but that number is skewed because of the extremely high salaries at the top. The median salary is significantly lower, at $787,746 per year.
The chart below shows how many of the top 100 players make a certain amount of salary per year.
As you have probably realized by now, being a tennis player can only be a profitable profession for a very small number of players. For those who do make it, life is great and you will probably not need to work after your 30’s. However, the vast majority of tennis players on the tour cannot break even, and is left having to retire and pursue a career as a tennis coach or trying to break into the corporate world. Players across the world are trying to develop proposals for better redistribution of prize money, but none have been accepted thus far. If you want to check out some ideas that have been proposed, you can check out two excellent articles written by current professional tennis players here: Quick Fixes for Prize Money Redistribution and Gambling Issues in Pro Tennis and Futures Level Winners Should Be Awarded Challenger Wildcards: Here’s Why.