The Karatsev phenomenon and inequalities in professional tennis


Most of us got to know him in Australia and probably no one knew him before this tournament.

This is Aslan Karatsev, the Russian player who impressed us at the Australian Open.

The path of this athlete has a lot to say in relation to world tennis.

Karatsev is 27 years old, that is, he has been playing on the tour for about 10 years and at the end of 2020 he found him in the 112th position of the ATP.

During those years he had received $ 600,000 in fees, less tax, about $ 450,000 in net income, or $ 45,000 a year. This money barely covers the cost of accommodation in his tournaments and tickets.

To have a core support team, ie coach, trainer and perhaps physiotherapist and not on a permanent basis, you need at least $ 30,000 a year. This player, therefore, had put out of his pocket about $ 300,000 in the last 10 years to be a “professional” …. And he was at the beginning of the year the 112th athlete in the world, while he entered for the first time in the world ranking at 19 / 12/2011 and broke the barrier of TOR 350 on 7/29/2013.

The chance of having sponsors was probably minimal, because no one is interested in an out-of-100 athlete in the ATP and over the age of 20-22.

Sponsorships at this level are limited to providing rackets, shoes and some clothing.

So while the pay gap is chaotic compared to first-class tennis players, the difference in level of competition is, as Karatsev proved, very small. Remember that he started from the qualifiers of the Australian Open and reached the semifinals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. He had previously beaten players such as Diego Schwartzman, No. 9 in ATP, Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 19 ATP and Grigor Dimitrov.

Both ATP and the ITF have a huge responsibility for this situation. It is not possible for them not to be able to ensure the survival of athletes who are out of the 100 team either. These athletes are about 1,000 – 1,200, who have points in the world rankings and are the reservoir of world tennis. Without them there can be no development in the sport and they have to protect them.

To understand this, it is enough to compare tennis with another very popular sport, football.

The best 2,000 footballers are paid in the millions, the other 10,000 in the thousands of dollars, even the 20,000th footballer in the world is paid richly and certainly does not have to pay anything out of pocket because it is the responsibility of the team that plays.

So the comparison is tragic for tennis, considering that it is one of the three most popular and most commercial sports in the world.

But he is not at all interested in the thousands of his athletes, who are trying to survive on their own.

Of course, all this now does not concern Karatsev, who was at No. 42 of ATP, received $ 400,000 and whatever he does next season, he secured his participation in the Grand Slams and the Masters 1000, that is, at least $ 500,000, still and if he does not win a single game.

But it concerns another 1,000 athletes who are out of the 200 team and thousands of others who are fighting for a place in the Sun.