How Much Traveling is Required?
Ever wonder how your favorite tennis players choose to travel from tournament to tournament? With a grueling tennis season that can last as long as 11 months, players are required to fly to all different corners of the world in order to compete for ranking points and prize money. The ATP requires a mandatory participation in tournaments, particularly for players under 30 years of age. The top 30 players must play all the Grand Slams, 8 out of the 9 ATP Master 1000’s, 4 ATP 500’s, and 2 ATP 250’s, and the players outside the top 30 rankings must play all the slams and all the 1000 Master events. These high demands require for traveling accommodations to be made at an almost bi-weekly rate, and that is if you are not eliminated during the earlier stages of the tournaments. Many tennis players have joked that if their tennis careers do not pan out, they would make excellent travel agents with all the traveling experience on tour!
How Impactful is Traveling?
Traveling itself takes a huge toll on players even if they are flying in first class. Just like any regular passenger tennis players are susceptible to delays and flight cancellations that can leave you waiting in an airport for several hours at a time. Players flying cross country is extremely taxing on the body especially when you’re in the air for 6-8 hours in a small seat and have to battle through jet lag in order to prepare for a match in just a few days. One of the most taxing flights is usually after the Indian Wells in California, players have to travel to Miami, Florida for the Miami Open Tournament. This along with travels from Europe to Asia take a toll on players and make it very difficult to prepare for a match. Many players have blamed poor traveling conditions to poor performances in tournaments.
Costs of Traveling
Travel costs for players can vary greatly depending on several factors. For professional players, they must treat their tennis as a business and cut as many costs as possible to be as profitable as possible. This includes deciding whether or not to fly first class or economy, who they should bring with them whether it be the family, coaches, dietician, or even their hitting partner. This has to be taken all into account for each tournament as many plane tickets are bought last second at the highest prices usually following a tournament loss. It is estimated that the annual average cost of travel for a highly competitive professional tennis player is roughly $150,000. With these costs, it is difficult for anybody ranked above 150 to break even with tournament earnings alone. For many players they take losses in many events as traveling to some places can reach a total cost of $4,000 only to exit the tournament after 1 round and winning only $500 for that round. These losses can be justified later in the calendar during the Grand Slams where 1st round losers can make anywhere between $30,000 – $54,000.
How Do Top Players Travel?
Many believe all the top players travel in private jets all the time, but in reality, they do not. Roger Federer has owned his own private jet for a few years now as he has won over 100 Million in prize money from tournaments alone, not including the amount he has been able to make from his sponsorships with Mercedes, Rolex, Lindt Chocolates, Wilson, Uniqlo, and others. Novak Djokovic flies approximately 200 hours per year via private jets but is not sure if he owns his own private jet or charters one. Articles referring to Rafael Nadal’s travel habits indicates he sticks to commercial airplanes flying in first class and sometimes even economy class, but in other reports, he is also a frequent flyer of private charter jets. Andy Murray has recently begun to splurge from time to time and charter a private jet but he mostly tries to fly commercially. Venus Williams has reportedly flown commercially but as expected always in first class. Most of the other tour players are not as fortunate and have to settle for economy class tickets if they want to be able to afford to bring as much of their entourage as they can without it becoming a financial burden.
Stories from Players
-With so much traveling each year some memorable stories are bound to happen. Rafael Nadal has shared a few of his experiences always stating that he is a “nervous flyer” where his palms will start to sweat when rough conditions begin to present themselves and that usually, the in-flight entertainment will help calm his nerves. He’s also stated that when it comes to getting to the airport he is always late but has never missed a flight.
-Agnieszka Radwanska traveled for 55 hours due to severe delays and a 3,000-mile detour through Lisbon to be able to make it to the Rio Olympics, only to be beaten by Zheng Saisai of China in 99 Minutes.
-Roger Federer has been known to have been using private jets for years. when asked if he ever offered any of his rivals a ride Federer stated “I gave Rafa and his girlfriend a lift once from Canada to Cincinnati. But no, my jets full, you do not want to be on my jet with my kids.”
-Caroline Garcia from France has once locked herself out of Doha Airport with no money or credit card. “I couldn’t go back through security and customs, so I was stuck for 14 hours, sitting on a chair. I had no money, no credit card, or anything.”