Karen Helf has been a contributor to Tennis View Magazine since 2015. Her recent article, The Cost of Doing Nothing, raises awareness of the struggle of tour players ranked 100 and below. Below is a post from her Facebook page, FollowTheTours, along with an excerpt from the article originally published by Tennis With An Accent. www.tennisaccent.com
Karen will continue to report on this story. Podcasts hosted by Tennis With an Accent are planned to share, players' stories, and updates as they unfold.
Before we get to Karen's article THE COST OF DOING NOTHING, here is the message she posted on her Facebook page FollowTheTours:
DEAR FRIENDS (Please Read)-We are all struggling in our own way, some more than others. If you know me, you know what tennis means to me & have experienced (sometimes ad nauseam) my passion for the sport. I have written an article that highlights a human problem. In all industries, people at the bottom do not get paid what they are worth.
I have long felt that players (not top brass like Federer, Maria, Rafa, Serena) rather those who create the base of the pyramid had no voice. I never felt good about it and with the current state, I feel complicit doing nothing. I don't have the funds or power to make that change happen, I can use my voice. I can no longer sit on the bench.
SO...I ask you to ACT for the sake of these primarily young people. Please POST, SHARE, LIKE, TWEET, Instagram, LinkedIn my article to raise awareness and garner support.
No. Tennis is not unique & I mean what I said. When this is over industry leaders, politicians, the uber-wealthy will be asked, "Where were you?" The answer sitting on the sidelines watching or hunkered down behind castle walls will not be sufficient. Liking my tennis page, FollowTheTours also helps. Note my page is NOT monetized.
Lastly, taking action has spiked my motivation & energy level. I wake up with a heightened sense of purpose. Just days ago, the struggle was real. The lesson here, do something to help others today. That is our purpose and in some small way, we can all do that. I promise you will feel better.
Be safe, be well, be kind, take care of yourself...look after others in whatever way you can.
The Cost of Doing Nothing
By Karen Helf
Karen Helf - Special to TWAA
Coronavirus play stoppage has torn open a festering wound that is now a tennis crisis, with low to no wages in the lower ranks. While the press frequently highlights financial titans — Serena, Naomi, Roger, and Novak — the stories of those below are rarely told.
In recent weeks, Patrick Mouratoglou and Georgian world No. 371, Sofia Shapatava, joined a conversation championed by Vasek Pospisil. Pospisil, a player council member, aired his concerns openly back in August of 2019. The current world No. 93 spoke up as he grew increasingly concerned about peers losing money or just breaking even.
On April 7, Patrick Mouratoglou published a plea to industry peers on his Facebook page urging immediate action. Shapatava launched a petition on Change.org seeking support from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). At last check, the petition had more than 2,000 signatures. Americans Andy Roddick, John Isner, Noah Rubin, and former No. 9, Russian Andrei Chesnokov have also been vocal.
The long-term impact may damage the sport indefinitely. Players and parents are watching. Fans are signing Shapatava’s petition, awakened to the reality that nearly 80% of these professional athletes do not make a living wage. Unlike most professional sports, tennis players do not receive a salary, contract, or bonus. Players rely on prize money and endorsements to survive. Competing also requires a significant self-funded international travel budget. This sheds new light on meltdowns and smashed racquets when a young player fails to convert a breakpoint. A point could mean financial ruin when hopes of advancing to the the next round disappear.
Karen Helf - Special to TWAA
This story resonates in the public eye now more than ever. How the tennis world does or does not respond will not be forgotten.
Should the tours lose players beyond the top-100, events may not have enough players to operate a full draw. As the tours age, will the Halle and Queens Club tournaments be able to co-exist on the same tour dates? Currently, 26% of the WTA top-100 are 29 or more years old. That number jumps to 41% for the ATP. Without a healthy dose of new blood, the future of the sport may dry up. Will the tours consist of only wealthy but not necessarily the best athletes, causing the elitist stigma to grow? My sincere hope is no.
Please continue here on Tennis With An Accent.