Money, Innovations For Lower Ranked, Struggling Pros

By Scoop Malinowski

One of the big issues in pro tennis now is that only the top 150 earn enough income to be successful pros and that lower ranked, struggling competitors in the Futures and Challengers deserve more money for their world class talents.

Nobody wants to give up their piece of the pie, not even the $100,000,000 earners of the ATP, but if the player’s council are genuine about their desire to create more money opportunities for lower ranked players, sacrifices will have to be made to “give something back.”

And sacrifices can be made. The sport just has to look into every dark corner and crevice of the industry business model. According to Sports Business Journal publication, the ATP has paid Justin Gimelstob and his production company Without Limits $3.56 million from 2012 to 2017 to produce the weekly ATP TV show, ATP Uncovered. The ATP also paid Gimelstob $1.4 million during that time. These numbers were reported by Daniel Kaplan in Sports Business Journal. (The 2018 and 2019 figures are not available.)

So Gimelstob has earned approximately $1m a year for producing a TV show that Harry Cicma Productions told www.tennis-prose.com he could also produce for approximately half of what the ATP is paying Gimelstob.

If the ATP were to replace Gimelstob with Cicma and save about a half million dollars, that money can be re-directed to initiatives to help players, such as programs to help pay for coaching, fitness, and travel. Or the creation of a special “winner take all” mini tour, for players ranked outside the top 100 or 200, such as the recent Center Court Shootout in Chatham, NJ where Stefan Kozlov, ranked 406 in the world, won the final vs. Victor Estrella Burgos and pocketed a much-needed $50,000.

Surely sponsors can be wooed to also add to the pot of a winner take all summer circuit.

Or how about a special #NEXTGEN Year End Tournament for randomly picked out of a hat players ranked between 500 and 1000? With a winner take all check of $50,000 awaiting the winner? Call it the Victor Estrella Cup in honor of one of the most inspiring journeyman to champion stories in ATP history.

These kinds of innovations can be promoted and tennis fans would surely take an interest. Everybody wants to see the lower ranked players earn more money, glory, respect and increase their chances of career success.

Also, as the prize money increases in Grand Slams, why not propose an initiative by the player council to chip off a percentage of the singles champion to help fund other initiatives to help the struggling pros ranked outside the top 150?

Another option which I personally learned about at the Tallahassee Challenger was a local player paying pros to play sets. A local lawyer named James contacted several players face to face at the event and offered them hundreds of dollars to play sets with him. Surely there must be a large number of recreation players who would also pay a couple of hundred bucks to an ATP pro for a set at off site courts a couple of miles away.

These kinds of programs can be arranged at probably most or even all ATP Challenger events. It’s another extra source of income for the struggling players.

I’m not sure what ideas are currently being drafted by the lower ranked players or the ATP player council, but these initiatives and many more innovations should be explored and pursued to help alter the vast prize money imbalance.

And to help lower ranked, struggling pros to have extra options and avenues to make their dreams come true.

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  • George · July 25, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Problem is that free market forces do not support lower ranked players. Went to watch an excellent futures final last year and nobody was there. Whereas people were putting up $20k a seat for watching Federer play in the Wimbledon final.

    Heard from an ex-pro that knows Paul Annacone that Federer’s exhibition fee is 2 million. Just what the market bears.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Minor league baseball and hockey are profitable. So it proves there is a way, there has to be a way to monetize pro tennis at the lower levels ranked outside the top 150. I think a lot of local clubs could absorb a winner take all, weekend tourney circuit, to help these starving pros. Especially the really high end ones.

  • George · July 25, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    I belong to a high end local club which hosted a UTR tournament with $1000 to the winner. Watched Hady Habib, second singles at Texas A&M with a 14 UTR, play Luke Casper, a top 5 junior nationally. Total of 5 people watching the match including Luke’s father along with myself and a friend. Could not believe all the people at the club walking by such a high level match. And these people play tennis every day. So sad.

  • Hartt · July 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Some Challenger tourneys do draw crowds. I imagine where they are located plays a role, but there must be ways to make more of them successful. A former player who now runs a Challenger tourney in the south of France talked about how they made it a community event, so got good crowds. I wonder if the ATP, and successful tourney directors, could advise other Challenger tourneys how to increase their appeal.

    One problem is even knowing about the tournaments. There have been a couple small tourneys in Toronto that I might have attended, but they were pretty well over before I even heard about them, and I go to the Tennis Canada site regularly.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Lots of people who play tennis are not particularly interested in watching it. This has been my experience in Britain over the years – and many people who flock to W’don eg would not cross the road to see a tournament with no name players, even though the standard might be high.

    Also a lot of clubs here really resent giving up court time to ‘outsiders’, ie pros. Don’t know if that will ever change.

  • George · July 25, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    “One problem is even knowing about the tournaments.”

    100% agree

  • George · July 25, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Tomic plays Leyton Hewitt protege DeMinauer tomorrow: http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2019/07/match-day-alex-de-minaur-vs-bernard-tomic/83778/

    Wonder if Tomic will be motivated to win considering the bad blood with Hewitt or will he tank like his Wimbledon effort?

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I was going to post about this George but you beat me to it. This will be a heated matchup since Tomic hates Hewitt’s guts. Tomic is also on the rise with two big wins in Atlanta.

    I expect Kyrgios to be watching while yukking it up and surrounded by babes.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    Anyone watch Tomic today? It was Ladies Day in Atlanta so a lot of how women in the crowd and he had a little extra pep in his step. Gave a great interview to Tennis Channel afterward. This match tomorrow is a big one.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Don’t know where to post but Robbie Koenig had some interesting insights into Djokovic on Wertheim’s podcast.

    Djokovic almost never trains in a gym and does not lift any weights, even for funtional training. He likes to run barefoot a lot, and ride bicycles. Then his daily mental training to control his mind – like against Roger when he pretended the crowd was rooting for him. Certainly this unusual regimen has unlocked tennis powers the world has never seen before. I wonder if more players will gravitate to this new-age style training of Djokovic.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Nice to see Marion Bartoli find a man again. Dating some Belgian soccer player. She went through a rough patch after retiring and now she is dating a young stud. Gotta feel good for her.

  • catherine · July 26, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Lendl and Zverev have parted company. That one wasn’t going anywhere, not after Sascha’s recent remarks. Sascha is quite close to Becker but I would think Boris’ position at the DTB, although it’s unpaid, would stand in the way of a regular coaching job.

    How good is Lendl as a coach ? Could be he’s a better dog trainer.

    Still out in the cold coaching wise – Muguruza and Kerber. Muguruza has w/drawn from San Jose. Could be there’s not a long queue for the slot with Garbine.

  • Jeff · July 27, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I think it is hard to promote men’s tennis in the U.S. with American players doing so poorly. America is used to Grand Slam champions and winners so these guys who can barely reach the second week of a Slam aren’t capturing the imagination of the public.

    I think the extremely lower-ranked players like Noah Rubin are better off podcasting to make some cash than playing tennis for a living.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 27, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Baseball and hockey have no problem selling minor league products, tennis has to find a formula to do it too. It can be done. Tennis is far more exciting and action filled than baseball which I now find as dull as golf and auto racing.

  • Harold · July 27, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Why is there so much complaining in a great sport? Money issues. Length of matches. Length of season. Let’s, no let’s.

    Scoop you mentioned Minor League Golf. You don’t follow it, but you don’t see tweets bitching about money, like tennis.

    Tennis is way more exciting sport, but Golf kills tennis money wise, TV ratings. Junior golf championships, amateur tournaments are on Major networks. The major networks ran from Tennis

  • Harold · July 27, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    I don’t follow minor golf, I have no idea whether you do. Typing too fast

  • Jeff · July 27, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Scoop, those are team sports and you can sell jerseys for the Modesto Mosquitoes and the Boise Potatos.

    In an individual sport like tennis, you can’t sell Noah Rubin jerseys. People would laugh at it.

    I think these guys earn money in Team Tennis, no? They should explore expanding that and creating team identities with those franchises and that way they can sell merchandise at lucrative prices. I wonder if the Rubins and Frantangelos of the world have thought about approaching Team Tennis with some ideas or is all they do to complain on social media?

  • catherine · July 28, 2019 at 5:34 am

    Harold – people have always been complaining in tennis. It’s an individual sport but then so is golf,another sport you mention. But there’s something placid about golf, maybe all that greensward and the walking around – just doesn’t attract too many temperamental types. Fits into tv nicely as well.

    And lots of players no one’s heard of can clutter up tennis tournament schedules, which is boring for tv. Individuals in a theatrical setting tend to moan a lot – fills in the time, plenty of excuses for bad performances and crowds of hangers-on and sundry persons keen to keep the complaints coming and to get slices of the cake. (No names no pack drill.) Teams are getting larger (there was a time when players toured the circuit ON THEIR OWN) demands are upped from day to day. Recipe for anarchy, workers vs ‘authority’ (GSs cracking the whip).

    Good idea of Jeff’s about TT for the lesser player. Back in the 7Os TT tried it with top players and that failed because they all ultimately went back to the big events but it could work the other way.

  • Jeff · July 28, 2019 at 11:50 pm


    I didn’t know that about Team Tennis, that they tried it with top stars. I think it is not meant for top stars but for the lesser players. They need to make these franchises lucrative and get local coverage on local TV and radio and build a following. Make it a fun atmosphere and have local players represent their cities – Rubin could play for the New York team, for example. Then market those stars by having them make appearances – like make Rubin sit courtside at the Knicks games with celebs. Have these guys show off their hot gfs so they will attract more stars and celebs.

    There is a niche for this if anyone is willing to do the work.

  • catherine · July 29, 2019 at 1:20 am

    Jeff – that’s more or less the scenario Larry and BJK had for TT when it started. They wanted to capitalise on the tennis boom in the 70s and have it more on the model of a US team sport. Unfortunately the schedule clashed with traditional tournaments and after a while, understandably, the top players decided to stick with those events because fame, not to mention fortune, lay with GSs etc.

    So TT became more or less what it is now. There’s a place for the competition but probably only in the US and for just a few weeks in the year.

  • Harold · July 29, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Its hard for people that love tennis to accept where it stands on the popular stage. Team Tennis, with Rubin leading a NY team? Kidding right? Attendance would be 100 people. Did you see how many people attended the New York Open. The ball kids waiting to work the next match, were the only people in the crowd.

    You better get Fed, Nadal, and the rest of the top players to try and grow that idea..Never gonna happen.

    Sad that guys outside the top 100, cant make a lucrative living, but, your talent isnt selling tickets, merch, or growing the game. Accept your fate, or get a real job. If you played college, you dont have student loans to repay, so youre a quarter million ahead of most of your peers

  • catherine · July 29, 2019 at 9:18 am

    What are the crowds like for TT these days ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 9:34 am

    It’s hard to believe WTT is profitable and sustainable. Maybe all the sponsors just are throwing BJK a bone because she’s an icon? I don’t know a single tennis fan who ever talks about it or has any interest in it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 9:36 am

    The biggest surprise in WTT history may be that they somehow lured Pete Sampras to play it one year. And it turned out to be a nightmare for Pete as he lost two singles matches to John Paul Fruttero, which Fruttero talks about in my book Facing Sampras. One of the matches featured a Fruttero second serve ace on deciding point! Pete was livid and never congratulated Fruttero.

  • Harold · July 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    To this day, I think Davis Cup has screwed up by holding US home events in places off the beaten path. Asheville, Portland( lived there).. trying to grow the game, cost them a lot of eyes on the event..should’ve been in NY, LA. Chicago or Florida..

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Good question Catherine, I didn’t watch a single point this year. I have a friend who went to all the Orlando matches, will ask him how the season went down there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Harold, Has Davis Cup ever been hosted in New York? I can’t think of any ties in NY. Los Angeles had one in the Forum indoors and Sampras got blasted off the court by Jiri Novak. I remember the atmosphere there was strangely subdued. I went to the final in Portland a decade ago and the atmosphere was just okay, maybe the US routing Russia in two days had something to do with it. Seems like Davis Cup just doesn’t sell or resonate with the American sporting public. The netheads kind of make it look silly too.

  • Mark Milne · August 12, 2019 at 10:08 am


    I hope that you are well.

    The future of tennis requires having alternative shorter scoring formats to help:

    (1) encourage youngsters, i.e. orange, green (mini-tennis) and yellow ball players,

    (2) drive participation,


    (3) encourage competition.

    Please let me introduce you to ‘Thirty30’ tennis, the alternative shorter format to ‘sets to 4 games (T-B at 3-3) + no ads + no lets’ (i.e. ‘Fast4’) and the ‘3rd set 10-point match tie-break’.

    Thirty30 (T30) can be described as the tennis equivalent of cricket’s Twenty20 (T20).

    Thirty30 scoring moves on very quickly and players can finish a set in around 20 minutes on average.

    This allows players to play many different opponents and is a perfect set up for mixers or socials and is also an ideal format for one-day or two-day competitions where competitors play numerous matches using for example a round-robin tournament or compass draw format playing either best of 1 or 3 (or even 5) set matches.

    For example, Thirty30 provides the opportunity to play three best-of-3-sets Thirty30 matches rather than just one best-of-3-sets traditional scoring match thus providing more varied matches against three different opponents instead of one.

    I am looking for people to spread the word and try the new shorter scoring method.

    Everything is identical to traditional tennis except:

    (1) EVERY game starts at ’30-all’ i.e. ‘30-30’ – announced “Thirty-Thirty” – the clue is in the name!

    (2) At 6 games all, a ‘short set tie-break’ is played, i.e. first to 5 points with a ‘sudden death’ point at 4-4.

    (3) Players serve alternative games and only change ends after “two & four” games played, instead of after “one & two” games as per traditional tennis, i.e. change ends after 2, 6 and 10 games.

    The “No Ad” & “No Let” rules are NOT used.

    A set takes no longer than 20 minutes, best-of-3-sets 60 minutes and best-of-5-sets 90 minutes.

    A ‘best of 3 sets match’ played in 1 hour is ideal for a 1-hour court booking slot.

    The Thirty30 format respects the important traditions of tennis far better than Fast4, i.e. sets to 6 games (lead by 2) and the Deuce/Ad points are still played, and a T-B is still played at 6 games all.

    A ‘final’ set (i.e. lead by 2 games, e.g. 7-5 or 8-6) of Thirty30 tennis produces a fairer match decider than the ‘3rd set 10-point match tie-break’ which can be a lottery.

    When using Thirty30, the game score ticks over more quickly and the whole dynamics of a set are changed unlike Fast4 which is basically just a set of tennis cut short.

    Every second point played is a game point and this leads to very exciting matches – youngsters especially like the shorter, faster moving and more exciting format that still FEELS, LOOKS and SOUNDS like traditional tennis

    Thirty30 Tennis – Where EVERY Point REALLY Counts!

    I have been receiving very favourable feedback (now 225+) from all over the world and it can be found on the page link below:


    I am hoping to use the feedback to help me build a case to apply to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to have Thirty30 officially trialled as an alternative shorter scoring method.

    If you are interested in trialling Thirty30 tennis, please see:


    Any help would be very much appreciated.

    Best regards,


    Mark J Milne, Arbroath, Scotland

    Creator of Thirty30 tennis

    Website: https://www.thirty30tennis.com

    Email: contact@thirty30tennis.com

    Rules: https://www.thirty30tennis.com/rules

    LATEST NEWS: An additional alternative to the Thirty30 (T30) scoring method is Thirty30+ (T30+) where the “No Ad” Rule is used.

    Also FYI – I was recently interviewed by the WTCA and a link to the resulting article “Thirty30 – Revolutionizing Tennis” is below.



    A link to: Tennis World USA, Editor’s Thoughts: “Thirty30 tennis – The new kid on the block” is below.




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