This summer, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Player Operations team working for the United States Tennis Association for the 2017 United States Open. Specifically, I was stationed in the Locker room, dealing with real-time issues with some of the world’s top athletes. During my time there I worked under Eric Butorac, the Director of Player Relations for the USTA and former top 20 doubles player claiming 17 titles to his name on the ATP Tour.
As part of the Player Operations, my duties were to handle issues that the players had and to make sure player satisfaction was at an all-time high. The USTA’s goal at the end of the tournament was to have players collectively agree that the U.S Open is the best “Grand Slam” style tournament of the year and having to compete with the French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon, that is no easy task to complete. My job was to do my part in ensuring the USTA can achieve that goal by providing excellent customer service and taking care of player issues efficiently.
Many of my duties were self-explanatory such as collecting laundry, making sure players have enough food, water, and towels, handling players gear and physically assigning them a locker. However, there were some intangibles to the job which were very difficult to complete. For example, there was one instance when I had to walk up to Roger Federer, widely considered as the best tennis player of all time and international superstar, and ask him what he wanted for dinner. This may sound like an easy task, however, just getting words out was a challenge. How was I supposed to walk up to a legend of a sport that I love so much and treat him like a normal person? I did my best.
Working in the locker room, you get to see what the player’s personalities are like when they are not in front of a camera. To my surprise, many of the players are actually what us civilians would consider “normal people” behind the scenes. I overheard conversations about fantasy football, going to the club after their match, and other banter about their favorite fútbol clubs. In some instances, I was actually able to have some normal conversations with these players as well (when they felt like it). Whether it was just telling them where I am from and where I go to school or telling them congrats on their match, these conversations were priceless.
Although these players may seem like “normal people” their day jobs are far from it. Spending hours and hours on the tennis court a day can pay off in numbers by the million for some players, but for most, it is hard to earn a few thousand dollars. In the U.S Open, making the main draw, whether it be through qualifying rounds or your national ranking, you receive $50,000. Players in the main draw could show up the day of their match, lose, and still go home with a $50,000 dollar check. If you win your first round match, your pay automatically goes up to $86,000. Not to mention, if you win the entire tournament you are bringing home a check for about $3.7 million. Their careers have huge payoffs, but only if they’re able to win matches. Many of these players that show up on the first day of qualifying make less than $40,000 a year, yet they still work for six hours a day on the court. Regardless, watching Denis Shapovalov, an 18-year-old Canadian superstar in the making, walk away with a check for $250,000 for a week’s work was surely a sight to see.
Playing tennis in college, I admired first hand the player’s dedication to the sport. The sport is their lifeline and many of them don’t just support themselves but a family as well by playing. These players are a prime example that countless hours of hard work and determination can get you to do amazing things in life.
After the completion of the tournament, I walked away with valuable work and life skills but most importantly, some memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. I am grateful to Drew University for setting me up with the education I need to pursue my goals in life and allowing me to partake in these amazing opportunities.