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A word tennis still can’t seem to understand: ALLOCATION

Matt Zemek



Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports

You might love Bernie Sanders or hate him, but he wouldn’t be the worst possible person to lead the sport of tennis.

Bernie would look at the arms race for cash at the two year-end championship tournaments in professional tennis and roll his eyes at the ascendancy of the 1 percent.

Look at this, via Russell Fuller of the BBC:

There’s an impolite term for this competition between the WTA Finals and the ATP Finals to see whose “size” is larger. The WTA came up with a $14 million prize pool for its move to Shenzhen. The ATP responded with $14.5 million.

If you read the full story from Mr. Fuller, which includes his analysis of the ATP Finals’ move to Turin, Italy, in 2021, you will note that the prize pool for the 2019 ATP Finals is $9 million.

Sure, prize pools do grow at tournaments — look at the majors, first and foremost — but can we at least honor the principle of incremental and not exponential growth? Or, if not that, can we at least make sure that if we are going to give $5.5 million more at the ATP Finals to a group of 24 players (8 singles, 16 doubles), we make sure to give $5.5 million more to the minor-leaguers who slave away on the challenger tours?

Between the WTA and ATP Finals — 16 singles players, 32 doubles players — a combined prize pot of $28.5 million will, in 2021, be split among 48 players.

I hasten to say that it’s not wrong that elite players get rewarded for being great. This is not something inherently wrong. It is, however, occurring against the backdrop of challenger players not getting enough to comfortably live on.

Again, love or hate Bernie Sanders, you know he would be focused on making sure the No. 300 tennis player in the world had enough to live on, as just compensation for his effort at being (on a global scale) relatively good at what he or she does.

Tennis should be interested in putting its money toward the players ranked 1,000 to 150 first.

Then, I’m sure we can have some money left over for the top 8 singles players and doubles teams on the two tours.

Allocation — the word simply doesn’t yet seem to be understood by the powers that be in tennis, at least not in a meaningfully applied sense.

The 99 percent continue to struggle. The 1 percent have it made in Shenzhen, London and — in 2021 — Turin.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.



  1. Avatar

    Jim Smerbeck

    April 25, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Thank you, Matt, for raising the question. There are so many moving parts as to how this money should be allocated, which I started to write but then realized that’s a set of articles, if not almost an entire book, unto itself.

  2. Avatar


    April 26, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    But isn’t the prize money (indeed large) only one component of fund allocation? I have read that the ATP Final represents the largest single source of income to the ATP, and presumably the same holds for the WTA. The real question is how the ATP/WTA allocate their profits (probably greater than the prize money) from the events: e.g., player pension fund? million-dollar plus CEO salary? Are the data available?

    Whether you approve or disapprove of the prize money, that at least is fully transparent, which might not be the case for other types of “allocations.”

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