Professional male tennis earnings passes $3 billion mark

30 November 2015

Total prize money distributed in the male professional tennis industry has for the first time broken through the $3 billion barrier this year, reveals an analysis by Earnings are not surprisingly skewed heavily in favour of the best players – more than 90% of the total has been racked in by the globe’s top 1,000 players, with the top 100 elite tennis masters taking home nearly half of the total prize money. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are by a large distance the richest tennis professionals in modern history.

Over the past decades the game of tennis has professionalised into one of the most advanced, popular and commercial sports of the world. Several studies over the years reveal that tennis nowadays is the number #3 sport globally in terms of fan base and popularity (an estimated ~1 billion fans), trailing just football and field hockey, although pundits highlight that tennis can probably call itself the world's most universal sport – the game is found in the top 7 sports across all continents.

Total prize money distributed in male professional tennis industry

With the rise of the commercial influence in tennis – a trend visible across the full professional sporting arena – prize money has seen an explosion since the launch of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 1972 and the establishment of the ATP Tour in 1990*. For example: in 2000 Wimbledon’s total distributable prize money stood at just over £8 million, while in comparison, the players of this year’s edition enjoyed £26.75 million amongst themselves, with across the board – from Grand Slams to Master tournaments (Tour Masters 1000), to the regular tournaments (Tour 500 and Tour 250) and even the Challengers – similar developments visible.

Up to the start of this tennis season, which was concluded by the ATP World Tour Finals in London and the Davis Cup final, the ATP had distributed roughly $2.88 billion in prize money. In 2015 an additional $151 million was paid to the more than 5,000 active professional tennis players, lifting the overall total to just over $3 billion.

Top 10 best earning male professional tennis players in history

As is the case in any highly commercialised sport landscape, the distribution of income is skewed highly in favour of the most successful players. An analysis by, based on player data, reveals that the 100 best earning male tennis professionals in modern history have racked in 22% of the total, with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal by a large distance leading the pack.

To date Federer, the man with the most Grand Slam finals (27) and Grand Slam titles on his name (17), leads the rich list with a total prize money income of $97.3 million, although his main on court rival, the Serbian Novak Djokovic, on the back of an impressive 2015 now trails the Swiss artist by just $3 million. The top 5 is completed by Roland Garros king Rafael Nadal, 14 times Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras and Britain's hero Andy Murray. Other big earners in the top 10 are Andre Agassi, Spaniard David Ferrer, Djokovic’s current coach Boris Becker, Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Czech Republic star Tomas Berdych, who ended this year #6 on the ATP Singles Ranking.

Top 11 - 50 best earning maile professional tennis players in history

The top 20 of the best earning male tennis professionals includes several other big names, such as Ivan Lendl, Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, ace giant Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Chang and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the highest ranked Frenchman on the list. Jimmy Connors, the man with the most titles behind his name, 109 (Connors retired in 1996 at the age of 43), ranks 65th, with $8.6 million in prize fees, illustrating the financial boom that tennis has received over the past two decades. 11 of the top 20 players are still active, with Ivan Lendl the only of those that has earned his prize money in the 80’s and early 90’s  John McEnroe, the number 4 on the list in terms of titles (77), and Björn Borg, the number 7 (63), scooped $12.5 million and $3.7 million respectively.

Nearly half of the $3 billion total has been shared among the top 500 players, with number 500 on the list, South African doubles specialist Jeff Coetzee, taking home a total of nearly $1.2 million in career prize money so far. The top 1,000 players account for a staggering 93% of the share, leaving $74 million behind for the approximately remaining 22,000 players that according to the ATP have lifted a racket in modern day professional tennis.

Top 51 - 100 best earning mail professional tennis players in history

Sponsor and advertising income
The prize money is however not the only income for professional tennis players. Data shows that, at least for the top players, sponsor and advertising income easily outserves prize money income. According to Forbes, besides the $9 million earned from tournament money, in 2015 Roger Federer racked in $58 million in other income, making him the world’s fifth best earning sports athlete, after boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, and footballers Chritiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Novak Djokovic, the current number ATP #1, ranks #13 on the list.

* In 2009 the ATP Tour was rebranded as the ATP World Tour.

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Champions League glory hard to buy for football’s economic elite

15 March 2019

The thrills and spills of knock-out football can still be one of the sport’s great levelling forces, with the Champions League’s second round having shown that the biggest spenders aren’t always able to buy their way to glory. While a league format broadly favours the squad depth of the beautiful game’s richest teams, half of the tournament’s wealthier teams exited in the first one-on-one elimination round.

As the Champions League burst back into life in February, following an agonising winter break, only two of the 16 teams re-launching their Champions League last-16 bid were from outside the so-called Big Five football leagues. With the exceptions of Portuguese champions FC Porto and Dutch footballing powerhouse AFC Ajax, teams from the world’s biggest spending leagues monopolised the second round. As outlined by analysis from KPMG’s Football Benchmark, the Premier League was represented by four teams, with three clubs come from La Liga and the Bundesliga respectively, while Serie A and Ligue 1 both retained two clubs.

This followed a grimly predictable group phase, which had seen the two most expensive squads progress in all but one of the eight collections of four teams. The one team to buck that trend, Ajax, had last won Europe’s premier club competition in 1995, but those halcyon days have long since faded into memory, and Ajax had failed to progress beyond the group stage in 13 years. With the second youngest squad in the tournament, what now seems to be an awakening football giant had some shocks in store for the second round too.

Group Stage values

Despite an impressive Europa League run which saw the team reach the final two years ago, Ajax had not progressed in a Champions League knockout stage tie since the 1996-97 campaign. That all changed this time, as Erik ten Hag’s men overturned a first leg deficit to trounce Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate. Having felt hard done by in a 2-1 defeat at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Amsterdam club cruised to a 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, a result which saw the tournament’s fourth most expensive squad crash out to the third cheapest remaining team.

The supremely expensive team, which had won three Champions Leagues on the trot, had crashed out in spectacular style. For many footballing purists, the end of the seemingly invincible Galacticos would have been enough to restore some of their faith in the sport – but there would soon be more schadenfreude to revel in, as a succession of Europe’s most bank-breakingly costly teams would soon join Los Blancos in their exit.

The pick of the bunch was unquestionably Paris Saint-Germain, who forfeited a 2-0 first leg advantage to somehow crash out of the Champions League. The team, who are fast becoming known as the foremost bottlers in Europe, faced a grim dissection in the French press following a 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Le Parc de Princes. While it would be over-egging it to paint United as ‘giant killers’, the Red Devils squad is worth markedly less than the club bankrolled by Qatari oil money. PSG hold two of the most expensive players of all time in French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian playboy Neymar.

Second Round values

Elsewhere, the round’s cheapest squad proved further that money is not everything, as Porto overcame Roma (the Italian club has since parted ways with manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of this humbling) – while Juventus battled back to beat Atlético Madrid. The most ‘balanced’ tie of the round, there was a squad value difference of only €22 million between the two squads, in favour of the Spanish giant. With that being said, €113 million of Juve’s price-tag came from the summer acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s tie-settling hat-trick went to show that money spent in the right place ultimately makes the difference.

Spending wisely

At the same time, there were also four teams which lived up to their large price-tags. Manchester City pummelled Schalke over the course of two legs, hammering the German team 7-0 in the second game. With the largest squad market value in the tournament, the Citizens showed that their spending had not merely been a frenzy provoked by having large amounts of money to throw about – a la PSG – and that every penny had in fact been used to craft one of the continent’s most well-balanced and dangerous teams, to ultimately contend for the title.

Tottenham Hotspur similarly brushed off Borussia Dortmund, while Liverpool eventually overcame Bayern Munich, to leave no German teams in the tournament. Meanwhile, Barcelona similarly did for the French contingent of the Champions League, bundling out Olympique Lyonnais 5-1.

Operating Revenues

Going forward, the humbled economic superpowers of European football will take solace from the fact that their huge operating revenues will allow them to buy up talent which has emerged in this year’s Champions League. With Real Madrid having re-installed Zinidine Zidane as Head Coach, the club has already committed itself to spending big in the summer, cashing in some €50 million of its €743 billion revenue stream from last year to sign Éder Militão from Porto – who has impressed in this year's Champions League – in the summer.

Whether the PSG project is financially sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen, meanwhile, but with a huge portion of commercial revenues including shirt-sales from the club’s array of superstars, it will likely also seek to bring in more big names in the summer. The club was reportedly in the running to sign Ajax star Frenkie de Jong, before Barcelona finally secured his services from the end of the season.

The likes of Ajax will meanwhile face an uncomfortable wait, as a range of its new crop of outstanding players inevitably attract the attentions of Europe’s top spenders. With the lowest operating revenues of any team left in Europe, the club will face an uphill struggle to hang on to the likes of teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt. However, it would not be the first time that the club has been plundered for its top talent, and what Ajax and clubs of its size can take forward is that with the right eye for lower-key recruitment, they can rebuild, and still challenge Europe’s elite.