So this article was requested and subsequently rejected by PolicyMic, mostly on the grounds of lacking intellectual inspiration and having a generally bitchy tone. I can’t really disagree. Normally I’d polish this turd into a blogtastic golden egg, but I’m going on vacation tonight. So I’m going to keep driving in my uninspirational and bitchy lane and just post it here.
PolicyMic editors used the following prompt to request I write this article:
“The US Open is next week, and tennis is still largely a sport for the rich; we think it’d be interesting to look at how much a game actually costs, from the uniform and racket to renting the court.”
I’m not going to comment exhaustively on why tennis is looked at as a “rich” sport, but I suspect it’s partly historical, more provincial, and mostly racial. If you look at the top ten ATP pros in the world, only David Ferrer is under six feet tall and only Joe-Wilfried Tsonga isn’t white. Only Juan Martin del Potro isn’t European. If you look at the consensus no. 1 player in the world, you have to go back to 1975 and Arthur Ashe to find a non-Caucasian topping the list.
So what are my credentials to write on this topic? Well, being a 6’4″ white man with a non-receding hairline seems to get me two-thirds there. Discount talent and factor in high-speed Internet access, and I’m practically an expert. I like tennis, but I never equated tennis to images of butlers standing court side with racquet, shoes, and a towel for a post-match swim in the dollar-sign swimming pool.
I grew up playing on a hard-surface court that required a 3 block walk through a non air conditioned atmosphere. My uniform was “skins” and my racket was something that my dad had neglected to throw away since the 70’s, but I played for the same reason I always ask for extra ketchup at McDonalds, the price was right.
So is tennis a “rich” sport? I took a few minutes of research to find out how much it would cost to play a tennis match from scratch. Here’s my caveat: there’s always approximation involved when stating an expected fee for a product. Not all shoes are created equal, so to speak. I’ve taken median estimates pricing of the product ranges from Dick’s Sporting Goods website. From my estimation, you can probably cut 30% of total price by going cheap, or add about 50% for premier gear.
Proper Attire, $90: As tennis became faster and more athletically driven, the sport has dropped the button-down apparel of yesteryear. For men, shorts above the knee and a t-shirt are frequently accepted (a few venues still require a collar), and can be bought in total for under $100. And for women, a tank top and skirt is fine, also available for under $100
Tennis Shoes, $80: Chances are good you already own tennis shoes. Frankly, my running, tennis, crossfit and everyday shoe are all the same ultra-flexible pair of $50 Asics. However, Internet shoe catalogues tell me that “one size fits all” approach is not the way to shop.
Tennis Racquet, $125: Easily the most fluctuation seen in any singular purchase. A high end racquet will run you nearly $300, while you can find several value-options for under $50. While some sites suggest a bargain shopper can find a good racquet for $70, perusing retail sites suggest you should be closer to the $150 range for a quality racquet. If you’re more serious than that, then you probably don’t need to be referencing this article. You already know this stuff.
Tennis Balls, $20: Really an interesting spread on costs. Depending on quality and quantity purchased, you’re looking at somewhere between $0.65 and $2.50 per tennis ball. I’d recommend finding a middling ball and plan on paying roughly $20 for 12.
Court Reservation, $10: In NYC’s Central Park, reservation for single play costs $15. Down where I live in Raleigh, NC, the standard price is $3 per hour. Most Tennis players can tell you of several courts that aren’t policed, but that’s not something that I’d openly endorse in publication. Nope, I wouldn’t do that.
Umpire & Ball Boy, psh: Let’s not get crazy. You don’t need some know-it-all in a baby’s chair on steroids judging you. Ball boy’s are awesome, but if you’re that serious, then you’ve already joined a racquet club.
Bottom line, $325
Sure, playing frequently will distribute the impact of these hard costs, leaving you only to worry about court prices, gear upkeep, ball replacement, etc. In reality, you should land between $200 and $475. These costs really aren’t all that different than those of a bat, glove and baseballs. Tennis may in fact be a “rich” person’s sport. But it certainly doesn’t have to be.