Smashing the tennis money barrier

Jonathan Legard meets aspiring tennis pros living on a tight budget

The four-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic may have gone out of this year's tournament, but he remains an inspiration to one of Britain's up-and-coming young players.

Scott Clayton, UK under-18 champion in 2012, was a practice partner for the world number two at the World Tour Finals, which the Serb won, in London last November.

The teenager's ambition is to achieve similar greatness but a racquet and tennis balls are currently all that the two players have in common, however.

Djokovic has earned more than £23m ($38m) in prize money in just three years. Last month he hired the former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker as his coach.

Clayton, by contrast, is struggling to make ends meet on the Futures circuit, the third tier of the men's professional game, despite continued financial support from his parents.

"I'm not breaking even at all," the 19-year-old says.

Scott Clayton in action Scott Clayton is one of the most promising young players in the UK

"You go to tournaments trying to get ranking points and win money but it's tough," he says in the MCTA/Team Bath tennis academy, situated at the city's university, where he trains full-time.

"You're getting a lot out of it on the court. But money-wise, no, not really."

Start Quote

You know you're saving money and doing the right thing, but maybe not the best thing”

End Quote Scott Clayton UK under-18 male tennis champion, 2012

Clayton's coach is 27-year-old Jamie Feaver, for whom tennis runs in the family.

His father John represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup and once held the record for the number of aces served in a single Wimbledon match.

Feaver Jr spent seven years as a tour professional before moving into coaching, and knows first-hand the challenges facing Clayton.

Being talented at tennis is only half the battle at this stage of a fledgling career, he says.

"When we're here with all the facilities, it's fine. When you're on the road, it's a case of survival.

"You've always got your mind on expenses. You've always got to keep them as low as possible."

"You make all the arrangements yourself. You stay in the cheapest hotel possible. You're eating the cheapest food, wondering, 'can I get another drink?'"

Jamie Feaver Jamie Feaver spent seven years on the tennis tour before becoming a coach

In a typical year, Feaver's expenses as a player were £15,000 ($25,000). His income was regularly a fraction of that, despite his best efforts to cut costs, even if it meant more travelling.

Start Quote

It's always at the back of your mind how much money you're spending because you know around the corner you're always going to have to struggle”

End Quote Jamie Feaver Coach at MCTA/Team Bath tennis centre

"I once went from Bucharest in Romania to a tournament in north-west Bosnia. I took two-day train rides instead of a $200 (£120) air fare.

"I won my first-round match; then I lost and had to get back to where I started."

He adds: "After a trip like that, one match was the maximum I was going to win. Then you get drained emotionally and physically."

Feaver was able to cover his costs each year thanks to his success in lucrative club matches in Europe and because of a financial backer.

But it left very little for anything other than tennis and inevitably schedules took their toll.

"It's always at the back of your mind how much money you're spending.

"You know around the corner you're always going to have to struggle," he says.

'Tighter funding'

With cost-saving firmly in mind, Clayton lodges with Feaver in Bath, with the pair scouring travel websites chasing the best deals.

"You know you're saving money and doing the right thing, but maybe not the best thing," says Clayton.

Scott Cl;ayton Scott Clayton spends hours looking for cheap travel deals

Their struggles form a familiar tale in the quest for a professional career.

Team Bath's director of tennis, Barry Scollo, was himself in the top 100 on the Junior ITF circuit during his time on tour.

Start Quote

University of Bath tennis academy

Money on its own never made a player. It certainly helps but it always comes down to the individual”

End Quote Barry Scollo Director, MCTA/Team Bath tennis centre

He and his coaches understand they are preparing their players at a time of intense competition globally.

"It's always been tough but it's certainly getting tougher," he says. "There are more players [and] more countries involved in tennis.

"The funding is getting tighter and we've got to make more of the resources we have.

"It's important that we paint a picture of the Tour: the physical demands, the mental demands."

These become even greater during periods of injury and illness.

No tournaments means no earnings and potentially missing out on qualifying for a Grand Slam; at Wimbledon in 2013, first-round losers received £23,500 ($39,000), considerably more than Feaver's annual expenses on the Tour.

And as well as their usual living expenses, players face additional bills for scans and physiotherapy, plus the cost of repairing or replacing equipment.

For top players such as Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - who have equipment deals and multi-million pound sponsorships - those issues will be taken care of by others.

'Every point counts'

Scollo acknowledges that financial support can affect performance, but says personality is a key factor too.

Novak Djokovic in action in the Australian Open Scott Clayton practised with Novak Djokovic, and now wants to face him for real

"Money on its own never made a player. It certainly helps but it always comes down to the individual."

Clayton enjoyed his best season in 2012 when he earned a wildcard entry to Junior Wimbledon's singles and doubles.

That early success helped focus a desire that saw him leaving home aged 11 to become a professional player.

His first year on the Futures circuit was challenging, but now he knows what to expect and believes can cope when "every point and every match counts".

And having practised against Djokovic, Clayton is even more determined to face him for real.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    11:23: Greece

    Why should we care if there is a new left-wing government in Greece? Linda Yueh, the BBC's chief business correspondent spells it out: "If Syriza wins the upcoming election and stands by its pledge to challenge the austerity programme, then it again raises the spectre of euro break-up." She adds: "More Greeks want to return to the drachma than keep the euro. It raises the spectre of Greece's exit from the single currency or "Grexit" once again."

     
  2.  
    11:11: Greece
    Greek and EU flags

    So, it has happened. The Greek Parliament has failed to accept Stavros Dimas who was nominated as President by the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Under the rules, there will now be a general election early in the New Year. Will the eurozone be able to tolerate the (widely expected) election of a new government led by the left wing Syriza party?

     
  3.  
    10:59: Keep interest rates at 0.5%?

    The Bank of England's interest rates should be kept at 0.5% throughout next year. Says who? Says a think-tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Its argument is that there is no danger of inflation picking up, even if the economy continues to revive, thanks to falling oil prices and the slow growth of salaries and wages.

     
  4.  
    10:44: ABN Amro stock market float

    Dutch bank ABN Amro is expected to float itself on the stock market in the New Year, with a valuation of £12bn according to a report in the Daily Mail. But the Dutch government is expected to only recoup a fraction of the £22bn it injected into the bank to bail it out during the financial crisis, the newspaper adds. ABN Amro was bought by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2007 in a £55bn deal but has been controlled by the Dutch government since it was part-nationalised the following year.

     
  5.  
    10:27: Glasgow Rangers
    Shareholders arrive at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, ahead of the 2014 Rangers AGM

    The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has confirmed that it prevented Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Mash Holdings from increasing its stake in Glasgow Rangers to 29.9%. Rangers had already announced that the SFA rejected the attempt on 23 December. The SFA board decided unanimously that the application should not be granted. It adds: "the board...... is required to have due regard to the need to promote and safeguard the interests and public profile of association football, its players, spectators and others involved with the game." Mash Holdings retains its 8.92% stake as a result.

     
  6.  
    10:12: Market update

    The FTSE 100 index is up 14.5 points to 6,624 following the Christmas break, setting the market on course for its eighth straight session of gains. Mining giants BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo American are all up about 2%. Shares in newcomer Indivior fell 3% as some of the euphoria over the drug firm's recent creation, after a demerger from Reckitt Benckiser, started to fade.

     
  7.  
    09:52: Lord King BBC Radio 4

    "We have made the banking system safer that is true," says Lord King. "But I don't think we are yet at the point where we have made it completely safe." He adds that he doesn't think the next crisis will come from the banking sector. But at the same time he doesn't think the problem of the imbalances between different economies in the world. or within economies, has been solved. "The idea that we can go on indefinitely with very low interest rates doesn't make much sense," he says. That doesn't mean he's calling for interest rate rises jut yet though. In fact, Lord King thinks if interest rates were to rise immediately they would cause another downturn.

     
  8.  
    09:40: Lord King BBC Radio 4

    "Financial markets themselves did not think banks were really at risk and it came as an enormous surprise to everyone when people found that markets no longer trusted banks, Lord King adds.

     
  9.  
    09:25: Lord King BBC Radio 4

    Was light-touch regulation to blame for the banking crisis in the UK? Lord King says he doesn't think the reason the banks are still not lending to one another is because of tighter regulation that came in following the financial crisis. Instead, he suggests, it's more about psychology. There is more fear about the credit-worthiness of other banks than there was before the crisis, he argues. That's not something that is easy to change, he adds. The amount by which the banks were leveraged before the crisis was "absurdly high and should have been much, much lower," he admits. But, Lord King says, the Bank of England didn't have regulatory responsibility for that sort of thing.

     
  10.  
    09:11: Lord King BBC Radio 4

    "I worked very hard to make sure there were moments of laughter," Lord King says of the financial crisis and his relationship with his colleagues during the crisis. But he adds, more seriously: "I don't think you can go back and say could any one country on its own has found a way through the crisis."

     
  11.  
    09:04: Network Rail
    Railway workers on the tracks outside King's Cross, London on 27th December 2014

    Louise Ellman, the Labour MP, who chairs the Commons Transport Select, is not happy with Network Rail's engineering over-runs that led to Kings Cross and Paddington stations being closed for longer than expected at the weekend. "If Network Rail decide to close part of the system down at a busy time of year, they have to be absolutely sure it's going to work as planned and it is going to re-open as planned," she tells the Today day programme. But she declines to criticise the Network Rail chief executive for being on holiday while the work was going on.

     
  12.  
    08:48: Ben Bernanke BBC Radio 4
    A red phone

    A bit more from Mr Bernanke. He tells the Today programme that during the crisis, the mornings would start with a conference call with six or eight people sat around a "red phone sitting on a coffee table". There was a "certain emergency feeling to everything that was happening every day," he adds. No mention of batphones though.

     
  13.  
    08:37: Ben Bernanke BBC Radio 4

    Mr Bernanke adds that there were one or two US Fed meetings that were "extremely exciting". He cites the October 2008 meeting which followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the meeting of the G7 nations where he and Lord King "tore up the communique' and really rolled up our sleeves and thought about what we were going to do." He adds: "That was a tremendously important meeting."

     
  14.  
    08:32: Ben Bernanke BBC Radio 4
    Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernank

    Lord King has interviewed Ben Bernanke for the Today programme and they discuss the financial crisis of 2008 in which they both played a pivotal role. In a rare human moment for a central banker, Mr Bernanke tells Lord King that most US Federal Reserve meetings, while they get lots of attention, are "deadly boring". He adds: "They are very scripted and the staff do most of the work and they write the the communique' in advance of the decision making."

     
  15.  
    08:26: City Link BBC Radio 4

    More from Mr Moulton on Today: "In the intervening 18 months it [City Link] would have paid a fortune to the government in PAYE, value added tax and the like. The government will be a net beneficiary of Better Capital's investment in this company he added," he stressed. Mr Moulton added that he had lost £2m of his own money due to the City Link collapse.

     
  16.  
    08:20: City Link BBC Radio 4

    Mr Moulton, speaking to Today, points out that City Link could in fact have been closed down 18 months ago when his firm Better Capital bought it for just £1. He denies that the taxpayer will suffer because the government will now have to pay the workers' redundancy payments. "The taxpayer has certainly made an enormous amount of money out of private equity companies and their trading and success," he says.

     
  17.  
    08:07: City Link BBC Radio 4

    Jon Moulton of Better Capital, the investment firm that owns City Link, defends his firm's ownership of the now closed City Link. "We chased every possible way to save this company," he tells Today. He says the company had simply failed, and that delaying the closure over Christmas had not been an option, as trading while insolvent was a criminal offence. Could the affair have been better handled? "Not particularly, no," he says.

     
  18.  
    07:56: Network Rail boss
    Network Rail boss Robin Gisby

    The Network Rail boss who presided over what is being dubbed the Christmas trains fiasco will not receive a "golden goodbye" bonus of £371,000. Robin Gisby will leave his post as managing director of network operations early next year, a spokeswoman for Network Rail said. Mr Gisby is leaving the company at the end of February. But the decision to withhold his bonus is not linked to the overrunning engineering work at Kings Cross and chaos that ensued at the weekend.

     
  19.  
    07:43: Russian economy

    The Reuters news agency reports that Russia's economic output (as measured by gross domestic product) shrank by 0.5% in the year to November. This is the first time the economy has shrunk since since October 2009 and reflects the effects of international economic sanctions and the falling oil price.

     
  20.  
    07:29: Eurozone crisis BBC Radio 4

    Marie Diron, the senior vice president at rating agency Moody's tells Today that the probability that Greece will leave the euro is pretty small compared to 2011. She says the euro itself has remained pretty resilient to crisis events citing the failure of a Portuguese bank last year as one example. "Saying the height of the crisis is behind us does not mean that everything will be smooth from now on," she says. Eurozone growth will be weak this year and deflation, or very low inflation, remains a big risk this year too.

     
  21.  
    07:15: City Link
    A Citylink worker and van

    Better Capital explains that it had tried to sell the business but failed, and pulled the plug on the loss-making firm because keeping it going would have meant throwing good money after bad. "In light of continued substantial losses, City Link could not continue as a going concern, which resulted in the appointment of Ernst & Young as administrators on 24 December 2014," it says.

     
  22.  
    City Link 07:08: Breaking News

    Better Capital has been explaining itself in a statement just issued to stock market investors. It says: "Unfortunately the appointment of an administrator was leaked to the media ahead of the intended announcement. The directors very much regret the impact on the employees of City Link receiving such bad news on Christmas Day." So it seems the Christmas day announcement was not intended.

     
  23.  
    06:57: City Link
    Jon Moulton

    Jon Moulton, the man whose private investment firm Better Capital owned - and is now shutting - City Link, is going to explain himself. He's fronting up on the Today programme on Radio 4 at 07:50 to explain why he decided to close the courier business. He's been quoted in the FT as saying he explored "every possible way" to keep the firm going, and that he lost several million pounds of his own money.

     
  24.  
    06:50: Lord King BBC Radio 4
    Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England

    Lord King is on the Today programme. He's talking about the financial crisis and how he and US Federal Reserve president Ben Bernanke responded to it. He says the biggest problem both men had was explaining to people that they were taking measures that were "quite exceptional to try to prevent something terrible happening." He also suggests quantitative easing - buying government bonds - was not an unusual policy measure but that it hadn't been used for a very long time. Bank of England governors had spent the post war period trying to prevent money growing too quickly in the economy, "now we were trying to stop it falling and trying to inject money into the economy," he says

     
  25.  
    06:40: The Interview

    Sony appear to be trumpeting the fact that The Interview (hated by North Koreans) has become the most downloaded new film yet produced by the company. The controversial comedy was downloaded two million times between the 24th and 27th December, taking nearly £10m. Is that a lot to shout about?

     
  26.  
    06:27: Greece Radio 5 live
    Members of the Greek cabinet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras

    The Greek parliament is to make a third and final attempt to elect a new president. On Wake Up to Money, Constantine Michalos, chairman of the Athens Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said he expected the vote to fail, automatically triggering a swift general election. "It looks increasingly unlikely, if not impossible, that the government will succeed in getting a positive Parliamentary presidential vote," he said. "The choice that the Greek people will be called upon to make in a few weeks time is the possibility of an instant death, because we've heard the main opposition, and the economic policy they will follow, which is totally opposite to the one the eurozone has been dictating over the last four and a half years."

     
  27.  
    06:13: Eurostar ban?

    The Daily Mail has a report today that Eurostar has banned a passenger for life after "kicking him off a train" for complaining about the strength of his cup of tea. Daniel Confino, a financial expert who the newspaper says was instrumental in saving the foundering Eurotunnel project in the 1990s, now intends to have the ban ruled illegal at the High Court. He ordered two teas at £2.20 each - and asked for an extra bag so he could have a strong cuppa. But when he was charged £2.20 just for the third tea bag, he complained.

     
  28.  
    06:03: Lord King BBC Radio 4

    Lord Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England has a new job - for just one day. He is the guest editor of the Today programme on Radio 4. And his big interviewee is Ben Bernanke, who was his counterpart as head of the US Federal Reserve during the great banking crisis a few years ago. Will they admit to any failings? Find out just after 08:00.

     
  29.  
    06:02: Good morning Ian Pollock Business reporter, BBC News

    Welcome back to the digital coal face. We hope you have enjoyed your Christmas holiday so far. If you would like to get in touch with us you can do so via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  30.  
    06:01: Mathew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. Former Bank of England governor Lord King is guest editing the Today programme. Greece holds a crucial presidential vote, which could have implications for its International Monetary Fund (IMF)/European Union (EU) bailout. And the search continues for the missing Air Asia flight QZ8501. So plenty to digest this morning. Stay with us.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.