May 23, 2011
Summer is just around the corner, and I’ve been enjoying my last days at home here in Los Angeles before I take off for my summer stretch of tournaments. I’m gearing up for a series of eleven tournaments in eleven weeks, starting with the West Coast Championships this weekend at USC. As soon as the tournament is completed I’ll begin my drive up the coast, stopping first in Sacramento and Chico for two professional Futures events. Following those will be the eight-tournament Pacific Northwest summer circuit that has been a favorite of mine for a number of years.
A big issue for tennis professionals starting out in the lower ranks (like myself) is finance. When you are first starting out and the prize money in the lower level (Futures and Challengers) tournaments is small, it is difficult to support yourself and you are traveling off only your winnings. Guys on tour have to worry about their food, accommodations at tournaments, travel between tournaments, ongoing equipment needs (shoes, string, racquets, grips, etc.), and sometimes even a traveling coach. At the Futures level where the guy that wins the tournament is only earning a little over $1,000, most weeks your paycheck isn’t even enough to cover that week’s expenses. Thus, players have to find other ways to raise money for their travel, and they do so in a number of different ways. Some of these ways include finding sponsors (either individuals or companies) that will pay for some or all of the expenses, teaching private lessons during the brief stints at home, having some sort of job that one can do remotely via the internet, playing money tournaments between the professional events, or a combination of all of these things.
I earn the majority of my traveling funds from playing money tournaments in between professional events. These money tournaments are usually put on by country clubs, open for anyone to enter, and often times have upwards of $20,000 in prize money, twice as much as the Futures events that have only a $10,000 purse to offer. There are money tournaments across the country for most of the year, and a lot of the mid-level pros (guys ranked between 200 and 1500 ATP) have figured out a way to travel and work in significant money tournaments between their professional events. There are also great money circuits abroad, the most prominent one being in France, where there are multiple tournaments every week throughout the year. The one downside to playing these money tournaments is that it does take you away from your professional events, where you might be forced to miss weeks that are good opportunities to earn ATP points. The more pro tournaments you play the more opportunities you have to move up in the rankings, and if you’re playing money tournaments then you’re not playing the pro tournaments. However, I believe that matches are matches, and often times the competition in these money tournaments is as good, in not better, as that in Futures events. As long as I’m getting competitive matches, I’m getting in better shape and improving my game, which is the most important thing in my opinion.Plus, if it gives me a chance to earn some much-needed traveling money, then even better!
Nine of the eleven tournaments in my upcoming schedule are money tournaments, with Sacramento and Chico being the only two Futures events. My travel funds have run a little low, and if I prepare well and give myself a good chance to be successful, I’ll be able to earn some money for the fall and winter to travel with. I know this is going to be a long stretch with a lot of tennis being played, so right now I’m training hard and managing my body to make sure I’m healthy leading into the summer. I’ve been cross training a lot by either surfing or road cycling in order to decrease the pounding on my body from the hard courts. I’ve been stretching between 45 minutes to an hour a day, keeping myself loose and limber, and also being sure I ice down anything that might be sore during the day. If you treat your body well then your body will treat you well, and I want to establish a good daily “body-maintenance” routine before I hit the road.
Stay tuned as I play the West Coast Championships this weekend, and then head up north for the Sacramento Futures…thanks for reading!