For a lot of people growing up, their ultimate dream is to become a professional sportsperson. They see their favourite sports stars performing at the biggest stage and they say to themselves – I want to be like them. For most, that dream disappears as they get older and realise that they are not going to make it to the top but others dedicate their life to the sport in hope of becoming the next Roger Federer or the next Serena Williams.
If you are wondering what it takes to become a pro tennis player, the first thing you should know is that it is going to take a lot of hard work. The Williams sisters started what they classed as ‘intensive training’ at the age of three! There are plenty of other players out there whose parents started them playing very early, which gave them a huge head start over others who only came into the game when they started playing at high school, for example.
So when you are starting off, remember that there is likely to be a lot of players that have been playing pretty much since they could walk. If you have a great deal of natural ability and you are able to progress your development quickly, then there is nothing to say that you cannot turn pro. Cedric Pioline is probably the most successful tennis player that started playing competitive tennis at a later age. In an interview he indicated that he didn’t start playing competitively until age 16.
However, it is considered a big risk to be solely reliant on winning tennis competitions for income. If you have financial backing then it is less of a risk, which is why you often see the college students with wealthy parents trying to turn pro when others have to go and get a job to pay their living expenses.
Here are the steps that will help you to get there:
If you are going to develop your skills to the top level, you need a top class coach to work with you. Tennis lessons from an early age will help you to learn the necessary skills.
Like we mentioned before, there are very few players that come through and become pro that have not played competitively at junior level. So you need to be playing regular junior tournaments and do well against your competitors. Yes, there are people that bloom later in their tennis careers but if you are struggling to beat local junior players then it is unlikely that you will be able to develop enough to compete with the top level of tennis players in the world.
Joining a tennis academy will be the best way to get quicker progression and they are set up for nurturing the tennis stars of the future.
If you are getting results at the top level then it is likely that you will already have been having conversations with your coach and respected people in the tennis development pyramid around turning pro. Once you are at that highest level, (at junior or amateur) or you are 19 years old, you have the option to play on USTA’s pro circuit.
Your income will be dependent on how successful you are and the prize funds that are given out for the tournaments that you enter. Most of the top players will earn additional income through sponsorship and some pros starting off may even need to do some tennis coaching to supplement their income.
The top prizes such as for winning the US Open are fantastic – $3 million this year but only a tiny percentage of top players in the world will ever win this kind of money. The average prize earnings for a pro tennis player is closer to $300,000 and it is suggested that 80% earn practically nothing, so it really is a big gamble on being able to win that big pot of money one day.