Gaby Dabrowski is the sixth-best doubles player in women’s professional tennis. She has been an Australian and French Open mixed doubles champion, and she reached the final in women’s doubles at Wimbledon in 2019. She has won 11 career WTA titles and competed for Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But Dabrowski has no endorsement contracts other than the free equipment she receives from the racket manufacturer Yonex. She said she could not afford a full-time coach, trainer or physio. She buys her tennis clothes online from sustainable companies and is grateful to the Women’s Tennis Association for a mental wellness program that allows her to tap into tour-sponsored psychologists.
“Doubles specialists, even during regular times before the pandemic, earn about 10 percent of what singles players make,” said Dabrowski, who relies on spot coaching at home and at occasional tournaments. “Fortunately, I am quite frugal. My father taught me how to budget at a very young age, and I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.”
Over the course of her 11-year career, Dabrowski, 30, has earned nearly $3.5 million. At the recent Madrid tournament, which she won with her partner Giuliana Olmos, Dabrowski earned $198,133. The next week she and Olmos got to the final of the Italian Open and won $33,815 each. But with the cost of travel, hotels, food, clothing and coaching, Dabrowski says she comes out barely ahead.
“The pandemic made things a lot harder,” said Dabrowski, who sits on the WTA Players’ Council and was instrumental in the reallocation of prize money in which players at the top of the game receive a smaller share for winning a tournament, and players who lose in the first round, those who are struggling or are trying to break through, are awarded a greater percentage.
“If we learned anything, it’s that we have to be looking out for those lower-ranked players so they never say they have to quit because they can’t make a living playing tennis,” Dabrowski said. “We need to protect and sustain the game for them.”
Tennis has historically been the most lucrative of all women’s professional sports. In 1970, Gladys Heldman, the publisher of World Tennis magazine, persuaded the Philip Morris brand Virginia Slims to put up $7,500 to sponsor the first women’s pro tournament in Houston.
Heldman then persuaded Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals and seven other young women to sign $1 contracts to play professional tennis. The so-called Original Nine players did not earn as much collectively in …….