Among racquet sports, tennis has caught the imagination of the world. For over a century, its fan base has increased steadily. Obviously, television has played a big part in the rise of its popularity. Over the years, the sponsors, equipment and apparel makers, television production companies etc. have explored areas to get higher numbers in terms of gate money, sales figures and of course, advertisement revenues by constantly working to enhance their contribution.
With sponsors finding value for money, spectators pay to watch the best in the game engaged in on-court rivalries that bring in an added dimension, and apparel makers hire designers from all over the world to make the game more ‘colourful’ than ever before. No less is the contribution of the media that ensures the champions enjoy appropriate status based on the statistics they are associated with.
In short, tennis offers a fine example of a win-win situation for all stakeholders at the highest level.
Much like golf, tennis too, has four major tournaments that are more prestigious and lucrative than other annual events. Add to it the ATP World Tour Finals, the year-ending event for the top-eight performers of the year in each section.
Interestingly, the concept of making the top performers of the year come together for one last time began in 1970 with the Masters Grand Prix, later rechristened as the ATP Tour World Championship after the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was formed in 1990. In retaliation, a peeved International Tennis Federation (ITF) created the Grand Slam Cup.
It was in 1999 that the ATP and the ITF came together and agreed on the Tennis Masters Cup. In 2009, the event was renamed the ATP World Tour Finals. In terms of prize-money, it remains next only to the four Grand Slams.
Two years before the ATP World Tour Finals came into existence, the Badminton World Federation announced its year-ending event much on the same lines. The top eight performers in singles and doubles were divided into two groups of four each. After the group league, two players/pairs from each group advanced to the semifinals and final.
In table tennis, the year-ending event, known as the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals (it will be called the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals from 2017) has been in existence since 1996. However, unlike tennis and badminton, table tennis holds the competition for the 16 invited players and eight pairs.
In terms of prize money, the comparisons present a lop-sided picture. If one were to compare the winner’s share from these year-ending events in tennis, badminton and table tennis, the result is bound to startle the uninitiated.
An undefeated winner of the ATP World Tour Finals takes up to $2.22 million. In comparison, the champion of the BWF World Superseries Finals receives $80,000, while the ITTF Pro Tour Final winner gets $60,000.
Interestingly, the prize money on offer is almost proportionate to what is at stake in other premier events held in these disciplines.
For instance, in badminton, its year-ending event offers a million dollars in prize money, which is second to none in the sport. In table tennis, the prize money stands at $500,000, considered to be pretty good by the standards seen in the sport. But take a look at tennis. The ATP World Tour Finals offers $7 million, with each victory, for singles and doubles, bringing in bigger share.
As mentioned earlier, if the champion, in singles, stays undefeated in all three league matches, he gets $2.20 million for winning five matches.
The winner in the U.S. Open gets $3.50 million, the Wimbledon champion receives $3.00 million, the winner of the Australian Open is richer by $2.70 million and the champion’s share at the French Open is $2.4 million. Here, one must remember that to triumph at a Grand Slam, a singles player is required to win seven matches, unlike a maximum of five in the ATP World Tour Finals.
Another comparison that should put things in perspective is the money earned by the best, during a year, in say, tennis and badminton.
As per the figures available for 2013, when the Malaysian superstar in badminton, Lee Chong Wee, earned a record-setting $292,540 for his consistent performances, Novak Djokovic’s winnings from tennis stood at $11,197,947. In other words, that year, Djokovic earned 38 times more than Lee.
It is obvious that these comparisons are no reflection on the abilities of these world-class performers in their fields. The global appeal of the game, its growing patronage and the ever-changing innovations in marketing the sport on television has played its role in making tennis the ‘Big Brother’ among other racquet sports.
No wonder, the road map followed by tennis has helped badminton and table tennis to grow faster. More importantly, these three disciplines have their own charm and die-hard followers. The prize money on offer does not influence the ‘devotees’ of these sporting disciplines.
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