The Importance of the ATP Masters
The pinnacle of tennis are the Grand Slams. They are broadcast, publicised and talked about more than any other tennis event. People who can not name a player outside of the ‘Big Four’ will sit through two weeks of Wimbledon with ease. On the other hand, the ATP Masters events generally stay just under the radar. Does this mean the masters aren’t as important as the grand slam?
If we look at the prize money, for winning a Master you get around 40% – 50% of the money you would get at a grand slam. Zverev, when he won at Madrid this year played 5 matches, 10 sets and earned just under $1.4 million. Nadal when he won Roland Garros played 7 matches, 22 sets, and earned $2.5 million. So we can see that the grand slams give a big fat cheque to those that win, but when we break it down, considering you play more matches, and more sets, it works out as not that much more than the masters. The real difference is seen at the lower levels. Mikhail Kukushkin went out in the first round of both Madrid and Roland Garros. At Madrid he earned $25,000, in Roland Garros it was $46,000. Now that might not seem like a big difference, but for those players ranked 100 plus, it is. Marco Turngelliti, world ranked 142, has earned $700,000 after playing on the tour for 10 years. In that time he has reached the main draw of 4 grand slam tournaments. Those four appearances have provided him with $350,000, half of his career earnings. He has never had the chance to play the main draw in a masters.
If we now look at the other side of a pro players focus, ATP ranking points. The grand slams are double the points of the masters, a QF knock out at Wimbledon is 360 points, where as a QF knock out at Indian Wells is 180. Alexander Zverev, after his victory in Madrid, had his career high of just under 5,000 ranking points. 3,000 of these were simply from his titles at Rome, Canada and Madrid. However when Novak Djokovic broke the record for the most ever ranking points in 2015, of his 16,950 points, 7,000 were from Grand Slams, and 7,000 were from Masters. Very even. After the Cincinnati Open, the biggest mover in the ATP Top 100 was Marius Copil. He moved up 10 rankings places for getting into the second round which gave him 10% of his ranking points this year.
In the last 9 years since the current set of Masters events started, only 7 players have won a Grand Slam title. In that same time, there have been 17 players that have won a Masters 1000 event. The Grand slams are an amazing thing, and are the pinnacle of a pro tennis player. For the top players like the ‘Big Four’, it is what you will be remembered for, will provide you with bigger sponsorship deals, and give you a nice big pay check. For the other top players, your players ranked 5 to 20, the ATP Masters are crucial. Smaller draws, and the chance of a few big names not playing provides them with a chance to get further through the tournament, picking up valuable points and prize money. If we then look at the players outside the top 100, you realise that they need the Grand slams, as that is were they make their money, even if they do go out in the first round.