No tours, no fees: Pandemic leaves idled tennis coaches in financial crisis

23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams' coach revealed that most coaches do not get regular salaries but get fees per match based on the prize money of the said match and several other factors

tennis coaches, COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, financial crisis, Simona Halep, Serena Williams
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, due to the cancellation of tours, coaches of these tennis biggies are suffering from a financial crisis. Representative image: iStock

Want a tennis lesson from coaches who work with Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer? Or how about from a former coach and player such as Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker or Goran Ivanisevic?

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, due to the cancellation of tours, coaches of these tennis biggies are suffering from a financial crisis. While some lucky ones like Simona Halep’s coach Darren Cahill get paid even now, others are not as fortunate to be paid if they are unable to provide their expertise.

In a bid to help these coaches, ATP opened bidding from Monday (June 9) to participate in the ATP Coach Programme through June 29 for a fundraising auction to sell private coaching lessons.

The money will be used to help tennis coaches who lost the chance to work while the tours have been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some donations will be given to a global COVID-19 relief fund.

“Funds raised will be allocated by the ATP Coaches Committee to support the members of the ATP Coach Programme, whose ability to work has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic. In addition, a part of proceeds will be donated to a global COVID-19 relief fund,” the statement said.

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“Fans will participate in the sessions at 2021 ATP events and Grand Slams, with spots being won between 8 and 29 June. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the ability of many people to work and coaches are no exception. The fact this initiative also helps fellow members of the tennis family during this uncertain time shows the unity and innovative spirit of tennis,” said ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.

Expressing his heartfelt gratefulness towards Halep, her coach explained that she has always taken care of him for being a key part in her life and he’s one of the privileged ones from the lot to be working with a great player.

“I know I’m privileged because I work with a great player, and Simona has always looked after me and still does. So I’m one of the lucky ones but I know that I’m one of the few. In the main draw of men’s or women’s tournaments there are 128 players (and) there might be 100 coaches that turn up in those tournaments. The vast majority of those coaches have made nothing through this period, and it’s been incredibly tough,” he told Reuters.

Similar to ATP’s initiative, in May, tennis governing bodies said they raised over $6 million to help about 800 singles and doubles players.

The International Tennis Federation, which runs the feeder circuit for the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours, said they added another $350,000 for those ranked between 501-700.

However, it was not much help for the coaches since the ITF had made a lot of coaching content on their website free for access.

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Even as coach Cahill was happy that the sport’s governing bodies decided to look after the players first, but said that the plight of coaches who were basically unemployed should not be ignored.

“I think there are other ways to certainly help the coaches. And that’s through raising the profile of the coaches so there are more off-court opportunities. We’ve spoken about this many, many times and this is going to be a big issue moving forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Patrick Mouratoglou, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams’ coach revealed that most coaches do not get regular salaries but get fees per match based on the prize money of the said match and several other factors.

“I know that a lot of coaches have been financially struggling during this confinement period and most of them don’t have any money on the side. I think (coaches) should be a little bit more valued and showcased during the matches,” Mouratoglou said.

Trying to bring the attention to the problems coaches face in their routine lives, Cahill said, “Our lives are in a little bit of a different place to what a player’s life is because most coaches have families, you are putting kids through school. You have medical expenses, whatever it might be. So we rely on that income to keep our lives ticking over, and there’s been no recourse for us.”

Related news: Federer out of 2020 season after injury setback; Djokovic may skip US Open

Swiss tennis great Roger Federer is out of competitive tennis until the start of the 2021 season because of a setback in his recovery from surgery on his right knee.

Even as youngsters in many sports are happy to be getting some time to prepare themselves for the upcoming challenge, legends such as Federer and Serena Williams felt devastated by the news of Wimbledon being cancelled.

The cancellation of Wimbledon could mean multiple champions have played at the All England Club for the final time. Federer and Serena will be nearly 40 by the time of the 2021 championships and Venus will be 41.

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