My written ideas ( link to white papers ) might imply that pro tennis (PT) is somehow pure in limiting athlete compensation to tournament prize money and endorsements. As various Track and Field News readers have posted, this is fanciful ( link ). OK, point conceded. A star like Roger Federer apparently commands $500K to $1M for appearances in lower level (ATP250 and 500) events ( link ). Still, he and a few others are the elite of the sport. They earn lots of performance-based winnings, tons of endorsement money, and yes, appearance fees. However, in the wisdom of a controlling Tour, ATP (male) players in about 14 higher-tier tournaments (ATP1000, Grand Slam, and Tour Final events) are not entitled to appearance fees ( link to SMH article ). On the women’s side, the same article announces the beginning of allowing WTA athletes to receive these fees. So, the simple purity of the PT model is not so pure as I thought, even if it does have some pretty strict rules.
But, the effect of this is limited. Significant appearance fees are apparently going to the very top-tier talent that helps with event promotion. Defining the exact correlation between prize money and additional appearance fees, at all levels of the PT Tour, would be an interesting research effort. My guess is that this correlation is high: top prize money earners command the highest appearance fees. Regardless of this, prize money earnings themselves are relatively large, independent of any appearance fees.
My basic argument about PT remains the same: qualification for the biggest tournaments (such as ATP1000 and Grand Slams) involve success in core events of the year-long Tour. With only a few exceptions, nearly all major “big-event” qualifiers come from a pool ranked by points earned in lesser tournaments. A few “wildcard” entries are available, for those “whose past performances warrant a place or who are likely to boost British interest in the tournament,” in the case of Wimbledon ( link ). Absolute purity does not even exist with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club! But, while some extra money is flowing around smaller tournaments, their on-court results still matter to field selection of the bigger events.
I concede that some subjective business transactions are at work in PT. However, this still seems to have much more structure than the activities of ET&F meet promoters, in stocking fields for meets whose results have little influence on the overall Tour.