MONTREAL — The figures can be intoxicating.
A Grand Slam champion can pocket $3 million for two weeks’ work and the tennis players at the top of the game are among the highest earners in sports.
Rafael Nadal earned more than $14 million in official prize money last year, while Serena Williams topped the women with more than $12 million in the bank.
Westmount’s Eugenie Bouchard has earned more than $2.6 million this year and her photogenic good looks — she’s on the cover of Quebec Elle magazine this month — have sponsors lined up to pitch endorsement deals.
Milos Raonic has $1.7 million in prize money to push his career earnings close to $5.5 million.
But for every success story there are thousands of players who struggle to make a living from the game.
To put it into perspective, consider that each of the 700 players in the National Hockey League is guaranteed a minimum salary of $550,000 U.S. They have their equipment supplied, travel on chartered flights arranged by the team and stay in first-class hotels.
Last year, only 62 of the nearly 2,000 men with an ATP ranking earned more than $550,000. On the women’s side, the number was 45. And these players are responsible for expenses ranging from airfare to meals to the cost of restringing a racket.
For every Milos Raonic, there are dozens of players like Vancouver’s Philip Bester.
Bester moved to Nick Bollettieri’s Florida boot camp at age 13 and reached the final of the French Open junior event. He was 17 when he made his Davis Cup debut for Canada, but he struggled as a pro and injuries took their toll. He reached a career-high No. 229 in the ATP rankings in 2011, but a broken hand left him on the sidelines and he had hip surgery last winter. When it came time to award the wild cards for this year’s Rogers Cup men’s event in Toronto, Bester — whose ranking had plummeted to No. 600 — was passed over in favour of younger players.
At 25, and in his eighth year as a professional, Bester’s career earnings total $141,582.
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