How To Make A Living In The Tennis Racket
By Jonathan P. Decker

(FORTUNE Magazine) – When you watch them on TV, the players at the U.S. Open seem to have it all: They're playing a game they clearly love, reaping absurd prizes, and cashing huge endorsement checks. But that scenario doesn't hold for everyone: While Pete Sampras may be hoping to win $700,000 at the Open, Jack Waite (right) is hoping to win just enough to make ends meet. Waite, age 29, is a former academic All-American from Wisconsin in his fifth year on the pro tennis tour. This year, he moved up his doubles ranking to 74th in the world. Impressive though that may sound, it doesn't mean he's rolling in cash. Waite shared his profit-and-loss statement with us, which shows what a working tennis player can expect to take home in an average year.

--Jonathan P. Decker

JACK WAITE, Professional Tennis Player 1997 INCOME STATEMENT


Prize money $105,858[1]


Hotel, air, and other transportation $45,679[2] Meals and entertainment 17,650[3] Telephone 487 Business expenses and dues 1,656 Tennis equipment 4,379[4] Misc. 153 Computer 2,383 Foreign taxes paid 10,826[5] $83,213



Federal income tax 13,567 Self-employment tax 7,836 Wisconsin income tax 860 Foreign tax credit (2,609) $19,654


[1]This includes winnings from the last U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon. It also includes $50 from Powerbar, because the patch on his shirt showed up in a newspaper photo.

[2]Waite foots the bill for travel expenses, and while the tournaments will pay for lodging and food so long as he's in competition, the minute he loses, he's on his own.

[3]Waite's on the road nine months out of the year; hence, his high food and entertainment costs.

[4]Nike supplies Waite with clothing and Prince provides him with $200 racquets. He picks up the tab for the rest of his equipment.

[5]"I've helped build a lot of roads and bridges in a lot of countries," says Waite. "When I play outside the United States, between 15% and 20% of my prize money is just automatically taken away from me."

[6]Yep, that's it. Just under three grand. "If I had a house, had a car, had a family, and had to put kids through school, then maybe it wasn't such a great year," Waite says. But he isn't discouraged. The way he sees it, with his engineering degree, he could always go back to the real world. But he's not ready for that quite yet. "Why," he asks, "would I want to get a real job?"