Journeymen pros crowd fund, couch surf to chase tour dream

Tue Jan 19, 2016 9:27am EST
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By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Aspiring tennis professionals are washing their shirts in hotel baths, sleeping on couches and relying on crowd funding to chase their Grand Slam dreams, a stark contrast with the top tier players that some fear could fuel corruption in the sport.

Tennis was rocked on Monday following reports that authorities had failed to deal with widespread match-fixing, just as the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of the year, kicked off in Melbourne.

Experts said tennis was ripe for corruption due to the ease of fixing a one-on-one sport, as well as the large disparity between the multi-million dollar earnings of top players and the lower rungs of professionals, where even mundane costs like laundry add up.

"Hotel laundry was $10 a shirt and there was no other laundry, so I hand washed everything," American pro Denis Kudla, who balked at the cost at a hotel in the South Pacific island of Noumea, told a small group of reporters.

"I filled up a bath and did 30 pieces of clothing then used anything I could to hang everything all over the place."

Kudla, now 69th in the ATP rankings, says he has never been approached about match fixing and was surprised by the reports.

While he now makes a comfortable living from the tour, many of his colleagues do not.

According to research conducted on behalf of governing body, the International Tennis Federation, almost 45 percent of the 13,736 players at all professional levels of the sport earned nothing from it in 2013.   Continued...

A player prepares to serve at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 18, 2016.  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu