Here's a recent interview ( http://hdtenniscamera.com/how-to-be-a-pro-tennis-player
) with Alejandro Ahuja, who had a short stint as a pro on the ITF Futures Circuit, where almost every player loses money:
"If have any interest in making a living playing tennis, you should probably read this first.
I've always been one of the elite players at my club, on my team, and in my town. When I heard that every ranked player on the ATP has at one point played an ITF event as a junior or adult I took the leap and played some tournaments on the International Tennis Federation'sprofessional circuit.
An introduction to the ITF.
Very little is known about the ITF circuit. It has only been a couple of years now that scores became easily available to the public,and scores can’t really tell the story of who these players are, what their journey is like, and what the ITF circuit life is all about. And believe me, it is a world that exists at the opposite end of the tennis spectrum. It's the entry level of professional tournaments, with prize money of $10,000 or $15,000, and over 220 tournaments held yearly worldwide. Anyone can enter, but you'll have to win 3 or 4 consecutive matches just to enter the main draw of 64, where only the top 8 typically get any prize money.
Who are these players?
The Futures are mainly interesting because of the mix of players you can find at one single event; from future prodigy teenage players trying to break into the ATP World Tour, to thirty year old journeymen who are still out there grinding it out, and everything in between.
In most cases, the player does: the flight, the hotel, and the food. It is easy to spot which players have some outside financial support (many have wealthy families...a lucky few have endorsements) and which players are out there on their own. Most players on the ITF circuit travel in teams in order to share expenses such as hotel and travel. Players in Futures events do not have many of the benefits that the top professional players enjoy. They do not have free accommodations, and there is seldom free transportation from the hotels to the tennis venues; there are no fans flocking to their practice sessions, no sponsors chasing after them for big endorsement deals, and no big stages to showcase their talent. Nearly all players at ITF events do not travel with a coach, a physical therapist, or even family members, because that just means added expenses.
Can you make money?
There's virtually no money to be made at these events; most players are doing this for the love of the game and the chance to accumulate enough ITF points to qualify for a chance to qualify for an ATP event. ITF Futures events are either $10,000 or $15,000 in prize money, with 80% of that distributed to singles and only 20% to doubles. A regular qualifying draw at a Futures event consists of sixty-four players, with eight of them making it into the main draw after three matches. Unlike Challengers and ATP tournaments, where players earn ranking points and/or prize money after the first round of qualifying, the only thing players earn in a qualifying draw of a Futures event is the chance to compete in the Main Draw. And even then, if you played three tough matches and managed to get into the Main Draw, there are no ranking points for losing in the first round of the tournament. There is, however, the pay check for approximately $150.00 which should be enough to cover one night at a hotel and three meals...after spending almost a week near the tournament! For those who are on their own and have little or no sponsorship, this lifestyle becomes a race against time. They have limited funds, and thus limited time to break through to the next level, where they can at least break even.
How good are these players?
Very. It important to point out that all of these players are incredibly talented, incredibly fit and work as hard as anyone on the tour. If you were watching a practice session during any of these tournaments and you were not familiar with the rankings or level of the tournaments, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you just watched a practice session between two guys who are about to play the first round at a Grand Slam. Just being able to obtain a single ATP ranking point is an incredible feat, so even the player who is ranked #1900 is already at a level that no recreational player can even imagine.
See a grittier version of pro tennis: watch an ITF event.
There are ITF Futures events happening every week in as many as 16 countries in the world. And if you are a true tennis fan and want to get a glimpse into the making of a tennis player, I encourage you to attend one of these tournaments. Tickets are free of charge, you can interact with the players who are always happy to get some attention and share their stories, and more importantly, you will be introduced to a whole new side of professional tennis.