Dave Worsley: Take the money and run - a quick lesson in US Open economics

Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: How much is too much? How much is not enough... and wouldn’t you like to get your hands on it.

'Slightly' erratic French tennis player Gael Monfils has caused a Twitter storm and media uproar, after claiming that if he doesn’t reach the last 16  (fourth round) of the US Open, he will have earned less than he’s spent for the tournament.

Costs include plane tickets and hotel accommodation for him and his staff, plus percentage of earnings for his agent and coach. Well, that’s how it translated into English.

Third-round prizemoney is US$163,000.

He's since tweeted in an effort to make things clearer, but it's too late - his quotes are out there and everyone has an opinion.

So here’s another one to add to that list of the 'informed'.

Monfils clarified: "In my case, to earn minimum 100K NET, you have to reach fourth round (maybe third, depending on the expenses), but as usual, people twist the answer and make up stories. 

"Maybe my answer was not clear enough. I will make sure I’ll be clear next time.”

The incident has harmed the ATP Player Council - led by Novak Djokovic, and now with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer back on board - and its push for more money for players. In truth, it's not Monfils, John Isner or the 'Big Three' who need the money, but the guy ranked 100-150 in the world, who is barely making a living from the sport.

Yes, New York is expensive, but players are given free food on site and a per diem that is enough for a reasonable room at a US Open hotel.

At all non-Grand Slam tournaments, players get accommodation free up until the day after they are knocked out, but they earn less prizemoney.

The 'lesser' tournaments - like Auckland’s ASB Classic - are the ones that need prizemoney increases from the ATP or world sponsors. This is a bit of a stickler, as the 'Big Three' don’t play the smaller events much anymore.

Gael Monfils.
Gael Monfils. Photo credit: Getty

It should be noted that all prizemoney at Grand Slams and other events is taxed. So US$163k at the US Open third round means, minus $50k taxes, gives you just over $100k... then flights for four people (business at minimum), plus food off site, accommodation, coach salary at 10 percent, agent five percent.

That leaves maybe $40k remaining.

Is that enough? Probably, but just remember that if Monfils or anyone else gets an injury, they don’t get paid for the time off - or for time off training. 

And although players are surviving longer on the tennis tour, it’s still  not as long as a PGA golfer, and they're not paid as much as comparable athletes in the NFL, NBA or similar.

In tennis, you have to make the fast money while you can and although it appears obscene that a first-round loser in a US Open singles draw gets US$58,000, that figure only tells half the story.

Are we okay with that amount for a loser? Is it too much or too little?

Should we feel sorry for tennis players?

By the way, men’s and women’s singles champions at the US Open get US$3850,000 each.

Dave Worsley is a Newshub sports reporter, covering his 14th US Open.


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