The Long Road to Becoming a Professional Tennis Player

Along with golf, tennis is one of the most lucrative sports out there. You can play it either as a hobby or as a profession. To become a competitive player, you need to be resilient, persistent, and ready to practice for hours each day. Of course, having natural talent is always a good thing, as well.

To help you prepare for the long road of becoming a professional tennis player, we’ve created a detailed guide covering the most important points to consider. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What to Consider as an Aspiring Tennis Professional

First, there are a few career-related requirements that you need to meet. As a professional tennis player, you will need to excel in flexibility, endurance, mental fortitude, technique, physical strength, and detailed game strategy. Looking at the most successful professionals, you will notice that they demonstrate amazing levels of athleticism, devotion, and discipline at all times. 

You will want to get started with tournaments that have minimal or no cash prizes whatsoever. The tennis experience you gain at an amateur level can go a long way in terms of developing a strategy for more competitive matches. Not only that, but it will allow you to gain the necessary knowledge of the game’s history and regulations. 

When just starting out, you are best off hiring a devoted coach or attending a tennis academy. These schools will give a player with amateur-level skills the essential talents they need to win a junior tournament and other club competitions. Keep in mind that you can’t progress as far through self-training only.

Start as a Junior

By competing as a junior, you may get experience and valuable skills for your future job. All professional tennis players begin their careers as excellent junior players who win club and regional tournaments.

Beginner players grow at varying rates at this age, making it impossible to predict whether or not they will become professional tennis athletes. Advanced hand-eye coordination abilities, natural footwork, and agility are vital markers of a developing star. At the amateur or junior athlete level, these skills are immediately identifiable by other tennis players.

To participate in national events, you must first become a super champ. When you do, you’ll be regarded as one of your country’s finest junior players, and you will be eligible to play in grand slam tournaments (junior).

Engage in College Tennis

Many professional tennis players begin their careers in college tennis, gaining an advantage over other tennis players by earning competitive experience and winning minor tournaments. 

At this level, players are typically awarded a full college scholarship, which relieves them of the financial pressure of paying tuition or taking out student loans. Before moving on to the ATP Tour, players participate in intercollegiate tennis matches, futures, and tennis matches organized by the International Tennis Federation.

Play Future Matches

Future-level competitions are organized by the ITF to bridge the gap between junior and senior professional tennis players. Because the Futures competitions are accessible to tennis players who are above the age of 14,  there are occasions when there are mismatches in terms of the players’ skills and abilities. 

Still, a huge age gap is something that you will find in professional tennis matches, as well. Futures represent a fantastic platform for you to develop necessary skills and experience.

Become a Challenger Competitor

Challenger tournaments are brimming with talented young players who want to engage in competitive matches and earn a bit of money to cover the cost of traveling and necessary equipment. It is one of the best ways to gain confidence and prepare for what lies ahead when you become eligible to play in ATP tournaments. Since many recovering tennis players play challenger tournaments, you should have an easier time getting some wins.  

Entering the Association of Tennis Professionals

It’s here that you’ll see significant increases in prize money and ranking points. In the early rounds of the tournaments, you will be faced with players who are higher ranked, which is a fantastic opportunity to progress and overcome challenges that you faced while playing at the futures and in the ITF. 

Keep in mind that, to profit as a tennis player, you must continuously compete at the highest level for years, which is something only a few players are capable of.

Getting in Shape

No matter your age, you must ensure that you are physically fit enough to compete on the court. Playing as a professional is physically taxing and will push you to your limits. There are several things you may do to ensure that you are in good enough form to compete on the court, such as running or swimming a couple of times a week and/or doing a bit of aerobic training. 

The reason why lightweight training is much better than weightlifting is that the objective here isn’t to bulk up but to ensure that you’re in good shape and that your body is ready for the grueling time you’ll spend on the court.

Focus on Practicing

The only way to improve in tennis is to practice. To become a pro tennis player, you’ll need to put in numerous hours of practice to get an advantage over future opponents. Make sure to balance your allotted practice time with available hobbies or leisure time. Keep in mind that, as a professional tennis player, tennis will take over your life. 

Make a timetable for yourself that includes as many opportunities to practice as you need during the week. According to certain studies, you will need at least 1,000 hours of practice to prepare for becoming a professional. Apart from playing in college, futures, and ITF competitions, you will also want to adopt habits that professional players possess.

Rather than concentrating just on striking the ball, you should concentrate on developing many aspects of your game. Every practice session is used by top players to develop various aspects of their game. As a consequence, their whole game improves with time.

Make a schedule for yourself. Before each match, the majority of professional players follow a precise protocol. Make sure you know what you’re doing and that you’re comfortable with it. Create your strategy. Many tennis professionals believe that there is no one-size-fits-all tennis method. In the end, a swing or approach that works for one individual may not work for someone else.

Hang Around with Other Tennis Players

Spending more time with others who want to become professionals is the best way to improve. Play against folks who will push you to your limits. You should play against people who push you even before you try to become a professional player. With that in mind, you shouldn’t always compete against those who you can easily or consistently beat.

Playing against difficult opponents is the greatest method to enhance your skills and prepare you for the many high-level opponents you’ll encounter as a professional player. If you’re a high school player, you might want to see if you can practice against some college players in your area. 

They should have more skill and experience, and you’ll learn from your matches with them. In addition to that, you should try playing against people who are older than you, as not only will you be able to develop versatile game strategies but also adopt some of the habits that they possess. 

Invest in Coaching

Take the time to look for good coaches who have worked in a professional setting. Believe it or not, there are bad coaches out there. When you receive excellent instruction, your time will be well spent.

You can only learn so much on your own, no matter how hard you practice. Whether it’s a professional coach or a casual mentor, find someone who can assist you with your training (though you will eventually need to move to a paid coach if you want to go pro). Be prepared to be tested. Having someone else lead your workouts means you’ll be more motivated to improve. It won’t be easy, but the return will be worthwhile in the end.

Hire a Mentor

You should seek out a mentor or mentors who are or have been professional players and can provide you with advice and assistance on your career path. Your mentors don’t have to live in your neighborhood. They might be people you see or run into regularly. The crucial thing is that they are prepared to give you advice and play against you sometimes to analyze and criticize your performance.

Understand the Sacrifices You Need to Make

To practice as much as is required to succeed, you’ll have to give up a lot of time. When you’re on the road participating in tournaments, you’ll miss out on a lot of things. As a result, you should carefully examine all of the compromises you’ll have to make if you decide to pursue a career in this field. 

That means that you won’t be able to hang around with your classmates as much, especially because the average age at which elite tennis players begin playing is about 6 or 7 years old. The later you start, the less likely you are to become a top contender.

Many professional tennis players are signed as professionals when they are in middle school or early high school, preventing them from attending college until later in life. Because so much of your time will be committed to practice and travel, your familial, social, and romantic lives will be impacted in various ways.

Evaluate Your Budget

If you decide to pursue a career as a professional tennis player, you’ll be embarking on a journey that will cost you a lot of money. Unfortunately, the majority of people cannot afford these expenses.

At the beginning, you’ll need money to pay coaches. You’ll have to cover the fees of travel and other expenses involved with playing in tournaments held outside of your native country.

The USTA, for example, may be able to help you with financial aid. If you qualify, financial aid will assist you in covering the costs of travel and other expenditures associated with participating. According to certain estimates, you need about $160,000 a year to compete in the ATP. 

Why Should You Play Tennis?

A Form of Cardiovascular Workout

Tennis is a high-intensity sport. You must race for the ball during almost every rally, which lasts 5 to 7 seconds on average. Engaging in high-intensity activities enhances your flexibility and explosive response, as well as your anaerobic capacity. This means that you will be able to last longer without getting as tired. The increase of oxygen and nutrients go a long way in terms of strengthening your heart and minimizing the chance of cardiovascular disease. 

A Whole Body Workout

Tennis is a full-body exercise,  whether you’re playing singles, doubles, or just striking the ball against a wall. Running, jumping, crouching, and moving on the spot all require lower-body muscles. 

Bounding and leaping will also tone your lower body muscles. Furthermore, tennis can help you lose weight, because, in an hour-long match, you may travel a distance of up to 5 miles. This equates to a 600-calorie burn.

Improved Balance and Coordination

You must respond quickly to your opponent’s movements and estimate the time between the approaching ball and its landing. In other words, tennis requires fantastic hand-eye coordination training. 

Good dynamic balance is required to avoid falling over while moving. To use your complete range of motion in tennis, you must reach and stretch while gripping the racket. You’re also less likely to fall over if you have strong balance.

Wrap Up

While becoming a tennis professional is a strenuous process, it isn’t impossible. Starting at a young age, adopting the habits of professionals, and hiring a respectable coach are all steps that will improve your chance of being a successful tennis player!