The haves versus the have-nots in tennis


Eric Butorac i s a n American tennis player specialising in doubles matches who’s played in 10 US Open tournaments between 2007 and 2016. For a period of time, he was the No.3 doubles player in the country. And yet, when he wanted to practice, he would go to courts that were closer to the subway station than they were to Arthur Ashe Stadium. “If we wanted a long practice, we had to go off site completely, sometimes out to Long Island,” Butorac recalled.

There has long been a hierarchy among tennis players, a distinction between the sport’s top players and everyone else. For instance, if Novak Djokovic wants to practice on Arthur Ashe court for an extended amount of time, he is given that privilege. Top seeds also typically practice and play most of their matches on one of three premier courts — Ashe, Louis Armstrong or the Grandstand — which affords them a major advantage: Retractable roofs, which lets them avoid rain.

The lower seeds, playing elsewhere, may have to train on practice courts outside the main venue, where fans from courtside stands can also watch on. For even lower-ranked players, finding quality courts to get ready for their matches can itself prove to be challenging.

Many agree that there is a have-versus-have-not culture in the sport. John Millman, once ranked as high as No.33, wrote in a recent article that at some tournaments, he received fewer tennis balls to practice with. “Those new balls are being chased around by the big support teams that have received extra accreditation from the tournament,” Millman wrote.

Bigger differences World No.9 Taylor Fritz sees even bigger differences at smaller tournaments, where it is customary for top seeds to be gifted luxurious accommodation and desirable match times. “Yeah, I think there are advantages, but I also believe that [those] have earned them,” Fritz said.

Cameron Norrie , Britain’s No.1 player, thinks it’s ironic that the better he performs, the less he has to pay for. After reaching last year’s Wimbledon semifinal, Norrie said he was offered free coffee by his local barista and even had his dry-cleaning bill forgiven, even though he earned more than $600,000 in prize money.But players agree that while perks for performance is a fair exchange, it’s when players are denied equal opportunities to prepare for tournaments that the situation becomes sticky.“When it comes to the opportunity to prepare, like access to the right gym, getting enough hours of practice, it should be as equal as possible,” said Daniel Vallverdu, who coaches Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov. “Anything that influences preparation, and that influences performance, should be equal.”.

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