As you may very well know, professional tennis players get PAID! This year, the US Open announced the biggest prize money in tennis history. Both the men and women champions will take home a whopping $3.8 million! But tennis players don’t just make money for winning tournaments, even a first round loss means a pay-day for these athletes. In the upcoming US Open a first round loss pays $54,000! The total purse for all awards (singles and doubles) is $53,000,000.
With all this money being thrown around, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 earners of all-time for the ATP (men’s pro circuit) and the WTA (women’s pro circuit):
Men’s Top 10 Earners:
- Roger Federer, $116,974,122
- Novak Djokovic, $114,136,035
- Rafael Nadal, $101,306,550
- Andy Murray, $60,911,795
- Pete Sampras, $43,280,489
- David Ferrer, $31,191,576
- Stan Wawrinka, $31,175,227
- Andre Agassi, $31,152,975
- Tomas Berdych, $28,931,999
- Boris Becker, $25,080,956
Women’s Top 10 Earners:
- Serena Williams, $86,368,121
- Venus Williams, $40,746,038
- Maria Sharapova, $38,047,109
- Caroline Wozniacki, $30,850,133
- Victoria Azarenka, $29,058,001
- Agnieszka Radwanska, $27,612,200
- Petra Kvitova, $26,803,313
- Angelique Kerber, $26,537,626
- Simona Halep, $26,219,526
- Martina Higins, $24,749,074
First, let’s take a closer look at the men’s top earners. Roger Federer, who has the most major titles (20), also has the most earnings, which would be the reasonable thing. However, it only holds true for the first spot. The players with the most majors are: Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (17), Pete Sampras (14), Novak Djokovic (13), and Roy Emerson (12). Compare it to the earnings list and you’ll find that, Djokovic is 2nd in earnings but 4th in majors, Nadal is 3rd in earnings but 2nd in majors, Sampras is 5th in earnings but 3rd in majors, and Emerson was an amateur!
For the women’s there’s a clear number one. Arguably the most dominant tennis player in history, Serena Williams more than doubles her sister and closest competitor, Venus, in career earnings. Winner of 23 Grand Slams, and counting, it makes complete sense to see her at the top. However, her closest competitor in terms of tennis ability, Steffi Graf, won’t appear on the list until the 14th spot ($21,895,277).
So why the discrepancy between tennis titles/ability and career earnings? Well, for starters, tournaments have been increasing their purse consistently. To understand the exponential increase of the purse, let’s see the difference there is between each decade. In 2018, the winner of the US Open will take home $3,800,000, in 2008, $1,500,000, in 1998, $700,000 in 1988, $275,000. You get the point? This is the reason why only three and only one of the women’s top 10 earners are retired players from older generations.
This means that we cannot base greatness on how much a player has earned because with increasing purses the new wave of players will always dominate. With this being said, the greatest of their respective genders sit at the top, at least for now.
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