Raising our next tennis champion isn’t cheap

According to Forbes, Roger Federer topped the table with pretax earnings of $90.6 million last year. Ash Barty earned a healthy $3.8 million in prize money alone.

But they are the exceptions.

Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz tells AFR Weekend she picked up a racket at age five, but didn’t get serious until she was 12.

The 17-year-old made it to the semi-finals of the junior competition before being beaten by Belgium’s Sofia Costoulas on Friday.

“I’m so excited, I’m just happy to be here playing competitive tennis,” says Kempenaers-Pocz, who idolises Ash Barty.

“Before I came here I’d been training about three hours of tennis and 1 1/2 hours of fitness a day, so I think my preparation was pretty good.”

Similar to most athletes, minimal exposure to international competition has affected Kempenaers-Pocz and her game.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been very, very tough,” she says.

“Most of us Aussies haven’t been able to travel, so getting the exposure to the Europeans and everyone overseas has been tough.

International exercise

David Moore, a tennis coach and director of the elite athletes program at Sydney University, says getting to the professional level takes an inordinate amount of time and money.

Travel to Europe and America is a must, and a young pro would probably spend something between $60,000 and $70,000 a year on travel expenses alone, he says.

“Every player who’s in the top 100 has had international exposure from juniors,” he says.

“It’s a lot of money and a lot of pressure on parents doing it privately if they have no support from Tennis Australia.”

Pay to play

Tennis coach and parent to two of Australia’s top 10 junior boys, Nicholas Brownrigg, says out-of-pocket expenses for families are “pretty horrendous”. Costs include private lessons and squad classes, equipment, restringing, shoes and tournament entries.

“If you’ve got multiple kids, you can easily be spending a few grand a month, it’s an incredibly costly exercise and that’s not even taking into account travel,” he says.

“It’s very, very hard on families, both financially and in terms of the family’s time.”

Brownrigg says most players do not have the full financial support of Tennis Australia.

“What people don’t understand is unless you’re in the top 150, you’re going backwards every year,” he says.

“If you earn $250,000 you’re probably breaking even because with the travel costs and all the other costs, it’s just nothing.

“All the endorsements go to those top few players as well, so they’re absolutely getting a great ride while everyone else struggles.”

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