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Naomi Osaka, kissing the U.S. Open trophy last year. If she wins this year, first prize is $3.85 million.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Naomi Osaka, kissing the U.S. Open trophy last year. If she wins this year, first prize is $3.85 million. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tenni$, anyone? Record U.S. Open prize money reaches stratospheric levels

Professionals at the year's final Grand Slam event will split more than $57 million.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Much has been said about how important the last Grand Slam tournament of the year is to the players on Tour. For Novak Djokovic, it would give him a second year in a row in which he will have won 3 of the 4 Slam events, an astonishing achievement. For Roger Federer and Serena Williams it would give them each a record-setting, or record-tying 21st or 24th Slam title, respectively. For any man other than the Big Three (Djokovic, Federer, Nadal) it would signal a breakthrough of epic proportions to reach the heights of a table that only the elders currently sit at. And for any women, it would be the penultimate achievement of any career--winning in New York City. But let’s not minimize the financial impact this event, and this event only, can have on any players’ life.

I wrote an article not long ago about how much of the prize money that Touring pros accumulate over the year is somewhat illusory compared to a sport like baseball because in tennis the player must pay for almost every expense related to their play. Coaches cost money, travel is expensive, a physio is now pretty much mandatory, health care, retirement account contributions and even stringing rackets adds up. In team sports, for example, the team flies everyone to each game. Coaches and managers are supplied. Trainers are paid by the team. Buffet meals await each team after every game. There are no transportation costs that the player is responsible for, and hotel suites are provided for all the players. Heck, even a good pension awaits those who meet the minimum requirements in professional leagues.

So when you net out the pay of, say, an average tea sport player making $4,500,000 each year, that’s what he gets before taxes. But for the tennis players, half of their money is taken out in taxes by each country before the money is distributed, and then he must pay his coach, travel partners, physios, and all the other related expenses. Travel and meals for a player and one traveling companion often add up to about $300,000 per year, as identified by John Isner, the top ranked American man.

But this year’s U.S. Open, with it’s record-setting prize money and individual purses, will go a long way in allaying the financial fears of almost any participating pro. The total prize money offered is a whopping $57,238,700, with a mind boggling $3.85 million going to the winners of the Men’s and Women’s singles events. Runners-ups get their hurt feelings washed away with a check for $1.9 million, and losing semi-finalists receive $960,000 each. Losing quarterfinalists walk away with a cool half a million dollars, and if you get to the Round of 16 (three wins) you receive $280,000. Win two matches? How does $163,000 sound? And if you get by your first round opponent you are rewarded with a $100,000 check. Even first round losers are paid $58,000 for their efforts, which ain't a bad day’s work for playing a few sets of tennis.

But the gravy train doesn’t end there. For the guys and gals who toiled in the Qualies and didn’t make it into the main draws, some money goes their way, too. Those who win two qualifying matches without getting into the main draw are paid $32,000, while those who get by their first round match and then lose receive $18,000 checks. Even the poor souls who make the trip to The City and don’t win a match in the qualies walk away with $11,000, which really helps these “other” 128 players whom the public rarely hears about, but who toil in obscurity pretty much 40-45 weeks a year.

Doubles is not left out. Winning teams split $740,000, and runners-up receive $370,000. Winners of the mixed doubles pocket $160,000, so even if you can win some matches playing with a member of the opposite sex, you get paid for your efforts. Additionally, the Open provides the players a total of $2,071,200 in per diem payments, which I assume go for hotel rooms, meals, transportation, racket stringing, and other expenses that the pros usually pay for themselves.

All in all, a two-week stay in The City can prove very lucrative for the Tour players, and for the incredibly fortunate ones who lift the trophy at the end of the fortnight, fabulous wealth awaits.

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