How Much Do Wheelchair Tennis Players Make?

People interested in becoming a wheelchair tennis player probably wonder: how much do these athletes earn?  

Many of these athletes make much less than the runner-ups and champions of men’s and women’s singles.  

That’s because they do not win the Grand Slam tournaments. They do, however, win some prize money. The following are some facts about how much wheelchair tennis players make. 

Prize money 

There are many types of wheelchair tennis, and prize money for wheelchair events is increasing yearly. 

Wimbledon, for example, saw a 40% increase in prize money, with the top players winning over EUR17 million. However, despite the recent Covid-19 pandemic, prize money for wheelchair tennis has not been as high as it once was. Therefore, the prize money for the events at Wimbledon will remain unchanged this year, with PS25,000 going to the winner of the singles event. 

In 2016, the prize money for the wheelchair tour was over $2 million, including the four Grand Slams. However, until 2021, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open did not offer a wheelchair draw. That means the prize money was not awarded at those tournaments in 2021.  

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Even so, wheelchair players will likely compete for the prize money at U.S. Open 2022. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there are still many adversities in the wheelchair tennis field. 

The Australian Open is leading the way on this issue. The Australian Open’s top prize for a singles event is $2.875 million; even the quarter and semi-finalists pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

In contrast, a first-round loss at the Australian Open nets $103,000, so even a first-round loss will not cost the players too much. But, ultimately, prize money for wheelchair tennis players must increase for this sector to become more competitive. 

While the prize money for wheelchair tennis is still far from equal to that of able-bodied athletes, it’s a start. It is a great achievement, particularly for disabled athletes, who rarely receive the attention that able-bodied athletes do.  

Thankfully, Dylan Alcott has changed that. His recent victory at the Australian Open is a huge boost to the sport and for people with disabilities. The sport can’t do without these athletes. 

Travel Costs For Disabled Athletes 

The prize money for wheelchair tennis is not as large as for able-bodied athletes. For example, the Australian Open singles prize is $2.875 million, but the quarter and semi-finalists still pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars. The LTA has taken up this issue, and the Australian Open has led by example. But more can still be done. 

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Accessibility to most of society is a given, but the transportation needs of wheelchair tennis players are very different. The first wheelchair tennis player to compete for the U.S. is 18-year-old Lily Lautenschlager. Her father, Kevin, has been involved in wheelchair tennis for years. He coaches the U.S. national team, and Lily is ranked eighth in her division. 

Need For Modified Wheelchairs 

  • Unlike regular tennis, wheelchair tennis players must use modified wheelchairs. Wheelchairs for wheelchair tennis players have extra small wheels to stabilize the wheelchair and lower the center of gravity.  
  • The cost of a wheelchair for wheelchair tennis is nearly two thousand dollars, compared to around $1500 for a regular wheelchair.  
  • The competition can last for much longer than regular tennis. The players’ arm strength, as well as their level of skill and experience, will determine who will win a rally. 
  • Athletes with disabilities often face a range of travel expenses compared to their able-bodied counterparts. It is partly because this discipline’s number of programs and clubs is smaller than the number of athletes.  
  • In addition, disabled athletes often have limited funding sources, so they are more likely to need special accommodations and adaptations. Whether the cost is related to accommodations or travel, a grant is a helpful tool to offset the costs of participating in an event. 
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The Paralympics are also a great source of funding. However, disabled athletes work just as hard, if not harder, than those in major sports. The cost of travel can be as high as $90,000 per year or more. Many athletes spend their entire lives on training, equipment, and other expenses.  

Fortunately, sponsorships help offset these costs and organizations like T.D. Ameritrade has begun to sponsor athletes with disabilities. Unfortunately, sponsorships are harder to find in years between games. Even then, money is not the end goal. 

Opportunities To Earn Equally 

The directive will affect disabled athletes like Title IX changed women’s sports.  

The Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education has sent ‘Dear Colleague’ letters to every school in the country, reminding them of their legal obligations to ensure equal pay for all athletes, including disabled athletes. 

Despite the lack of equal pay for disabled athletes, some countries are making great strides to improve their sports compensation.  

In Britain, for example, athletes competing for a national team are eligible for a tax-free health insurance plan.  

Paralympic athletes also receive training and living support based on their international standing. However, athletes competing for a nation such as Canada don’t have to worry about medical insurance costs. 

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Pay parity for disabled athletes will improve the lives of these athletes. It would encourage more young athletes to pursue a sports career. Achieving pay parity with able-bodied athletes would also show those athletes that they are not different than mainstream athletes. Therefore, pay parity could be important in encouraging more young disabled athletes to pursue sports careers. 

Disability-related discrimination has a long-standing history. The Paralympians are focused on these concerns instead of their physical abilities.  

It is a sad fact that the United States hasn’t always listened to its athletes. Some of these athletes even claim that they have lost races and lost medals as a result. However, despite the stigma, other nations have started to support disabled athletes on equal footing with able-bodied competitors. 

Wheelchair Tennis: Played Just Like Regular Sport  

  • The game is the same as able-bodied tennis except for the limitations of a wheelchair.  
  • A wheelchair player cannot use their lower extremities as stabilizers or brakes.  
  • They must maintain contact with the seat when contacting the ball and must not propel their wheelchair with one foot.  
  • The DS/USA chapter at Gaylord Hospital in Michigan encourages beginners to try wheelchair tennis at its annual clinic.
  • Players can play wheelchair tennis singles or doubles.   
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The game’s objective is to prevent the other player from hitting the ball back. Therefore, the wheelchair athlete must hit the ball as hard as an able-bodied player. The rules of wheelchair tennis are similar to those of able-bodied tennis. The wheelchair athlete must hit the ball as hard as possible to keep the other player from hitting it back. 

It has its professional tour 

  • There are some challenges in wheelchair tennis. For example, wheelchair grand slam winners earn just over $46,000 instead of the millions won by their able-bodied counterparts.  
  • While wheelchair tennis is still relatively new, some players have gained a literal following. And while the sport may not be able to fill a stadium, it is slowly gaining popularity and has been included in the Paralympic Games. 
  • The sport has its professional tour, the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, previously known as the NEC Tour. This tour includes several categories, from the beginner-level ITF Futures to the ATP 500-level Wheelchair Masters.  
  • The ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour organizes over 150 events each year, providing opportunities for thousands of individuals with physical disabilities. In addition, the tours are highly organized and feature high-quality competition that is exciting for both men and women. 
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It Has Its Own Prize Money 

Wheelchair tennis was first played in 1976. Then it was recognized as an Olympic sport by the International Paralympic Committee. Until that time, wheelchair tennis had been played only by wheelchair users.  

A teenager Brad Parks was paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident and was forced to use a wheelchair. As a schedule of his rehabilitation, he started playing wheelchair basketball and eventually hit a tennis ball with his father. The sport quickly gained popularity, and prize money increased. 

The Australian Open introduced wheelchair tennis in 2016, and the prize money for the quad singles competition was initially $32,000. This amount has since risen to $46,000 but is still under the prize money awarded to able-bodied champions. But the prize money for wheelchair athletes is increasing each year. For example, the winner of the wheelchair division at the Australian Open in 2018 earned $46,000 while the runners-up got lesser, making wheelchair tennis prize money on par with able-bodied winners. 

Disadvantage: Not affordable For Everyone 

A wheelchair is essential equipment for a wheelchair tennis player. A wheelchair can be adjusted to allow players to play in casual or short races. In addition, some wheelchairs are designed to accommodate the different weight and balance requirements.  

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You can find an adapter to change the center of mass on the Internet, such as the Invacare(r) Top End Pro(TM)-2 All Sport Wheelchair. The sport of wheelchair tennis is very different from traditional tennis. Therefore, a wheelchair needs special accessories, like leg rests and supports, to make it as comfortable as possible. 

Many wheelchairs are unaffordable. The price of a wheelchair is high compared to a traditional one. However, wheelchair tennis equipment is essential to the sport’s culture. Wheelchair tennis is an excellent way to get in shape, even if you can’t afford a high-quality chair. The sport also provides a fun and social setting, as players meet new people and spend time with their friends. 

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