Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova may have raked in a combined $100 million (€ 75,658,378) in prize money in their careers, but their rivals are struggling on the breadline.
Recent estimates suggest that only 10% of the 1,800 male and 1,400 female professionals make a decent living out of the sport.
"A player outside the top 20 often has no other source of income than their prize money," said Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is ranked 103rd.
Top stars enjoy
It is a very different world to that inhabited by the top ranked players, as indicated by the figures in 2012. Men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won ¤9.7 million in prize money while his female equivalent, Victoria Azarenka won six million. Those earnings are multiplied by sponsorship deals, appearance money and exhibition ties. Sharapova earns an extra $20 million a year from endorsements.
Players ranked between 90th and 100th in the world won on average ¤202,970 in prize money in 2012 while it dropped to ¤75,000 for the 150th ranked player and just ¤20,780 for the 200th-rated player. However, the expenses eat into those sums. Tax can deduct up to 30% while travel costs, food, hotels, and the price of a coach nibble even more away. Without the help of a federation, a patron or family, things can become stretched very quickly.
Even saving money for a rainy day or for when serious injury strikes can be tough.
Forced into debt
But some tournament officials insist that the top players do not help their fellow players with sky-rocketing demands for appearance money. Some players are forced into debt even when, by most people's standards, they earn a respectable yearly income such as Claire Feuerstein (No. 130) who earned ¤71,317 last season. However, once taxes and expenses were deducted, she was compelled to borrow money in June.