At one point or another, every single tennis fan has wished that they could live the life of a professional tennis player. Traveling around the world, playing the sport you love, and still make a lot of money doing so sounds like the absolute dream.
While this is in fact how the life of the top tennis players works, things are not as great for those players ranked outside the top 100 players in the world. These players do not make nearly as much money, they need to play tournaments in not-so-glamorous places, and oftentimes they need to stay in crappy hotels.
While this is a big risk you’re going to need to take if you want to pursue a career as a tennis player, there is one much bigger risk you’ll be exposed to: you will probably have a pretty short career. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid career-ending injuries, you will probably be done with professional tennis by the age of 35. And when that day comes, what are you supposed to do?
After they retire, tennis players often have a difficult time figuring out what to do with their lives. In the majority of cases, they remain involved with tennis, whether through private coaching in tennis academies, college coaching, coaching high-level players on tour, or working with tennis organizations. Other players choose to go back to school or find a regular job after they retire. And finally, the most successful players get to just play on the ATP Champions tour and/or relax and enjoy their lives.
While tennis players do have somewhat limited career options after they retire, they do have some good choices. We’ll cover some of the most popular ones in depth below.
Coaching On Tour
Recently, it has become the norm for the top players to hire past players as their coaches. Players find that past tennis pros can help them develop in several areas, but the biggest advantage is usually related to the mental side. Having someone in your team who understands everything you’re going through can be a big game-changer.
For the retired player (and now coach), this is a great deal. They get to make a good amount of money and still travel to tournaments, but without going through the physical strain. Several former ATP and WTA players are currently coaching on tour, including: Magnus Norman (Wawrinka’s coach), Ivan Ljubicic (Federer), Amelie Mauresmo (Murray), Michael Chang (Nishikori), Goran Ivanisevic (Djokovic), Carlos Moya (Nadal), and many others.
Another commonly seen career path for retired tennis players is private tennis coaching. Depending on the level of success achieved by the player on tour, they go on to either open their own tennis academy or join an existing academy or club. Some successful players who have their own tennis academies are Brian Dabul, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Justine Henin.
Players who have not reached the top of the rankings usually end up joining an existing club or academy. These are usually players who played in the Futures or Challengers level. They can coach either club players, juniors or kids, and they make a pretty good living out of it. You can usually make between $60 and $100 per lesson as a tennis coach, so it’s clearly not a terrible career path.
Another great career path for retired tennis players who want to stay involved with tennis is college coaching. This is a great choice for players who are tired of all the traveling and the instability; college coaches do not have to travel much, and they have a good base salary. This way, retired players can grow their families and their roots in one place – something they couldn’t really do while playing on tour.
Play On Champions Tour
Players who were at the top of the rankings when they were on tour – and who were able to put up a show – get to enjoy their retired life playing on the ATP Champions Tour. These are tournaments (mainly exhibition-like matches) played at the same time as the main professional tournaments. These retired players get paid just to show up and entertain, which sounds like an awesome gig. Several famous players are currently playing on the Champions Tour, including Tommy Haas, David Ferrer, John McEnroe, Marat Safin, and many others.
Work With Tennis Organizations
Some of the most successful tennis players who also have a knack for business end up working with tennis organizations after they retire. Some of them continue working with the ATP or ITF in order to further develop those institutions, but most players end up working with their national tennis organizations. By doing so, they get to stay connected to tennis but from a different perspective. For instance, a successful Brazilian player who is also a friend of mine recently started a role with Tennis Australia as the Head of Player Liaison.
Go Back To School
Several of my friends who played on the ITF or Challenger tour for some time decided to go back to school after they hung their rackets. Even though it may be a bit strange going back to school after a long gap, this path is actually great for retired players who are looking to transition into a “regular” life. Some of these players have already completed 3 years of university before going pro, so they end up going back just for a year in order to get their degree. Bobby Reynolds, an American tennis player who reached the 63rd position in the ATP, returned to Vanderbilt for a year after retiring in order to get his degree.
Find A Normal Job
Other retired players just simply go on and get a normal job. These players are able to transition everything they learned playing tennis – discipline, hard work, resilience – to a different job. While they may need to take some time to learn the technical skills of the job, their highly developed emotional intelligence will most likely make them successful in a short period of time.
Retire and Relax
Finally, some of the most successful players are able to just relax and enjoy their success after they retire. Most of them have enough money saved up so they won’t have to work again, and they choose to enjoy their time with their families – something they were not really able to do while playing. These players will often be seen at some tournaments enjoying the atmosphere and remembering the old days, but for the most part they just get to enjoy themselves.
While tennis players usually have short careers (about 10 to 15 years on average), they usually end up staying connected to tennis in one way or another. Regardless of the path they choose, they are usually able to transfer all the experiences and lessons learned while on the tour, which compensated for the lack of experience in other areas.