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Living the dream the hard way for ace Tom Rees
4:00pm Wednesday 31st July 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
ANYBODY who thought the life of a professional tennis player was one of glitz and glamour might want to think again.
For, while the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are multi-millionaires travelling the globe, it is a world of fast food, budget hotels and car pools for those trying to make a name for themselves in the sport.
“Basically, it’s a grind,” says Droitwich’s Tom Rees, a 23-year-old currently on the Futures circuit, the first rung of the tennis ladder before the Challengers and main tour.
“Players rock up at tournaments and, depending on their funding, they’ll be staying six to a hotel room, eating pot noodles at every opportunity, just saving money. It’s not glamorous.”
The former Droitwich High and Witton Middle School pupil, who now lives in the United States, continued: “You are always looking for the cheapest hotel and you’re always looking to share a lift.
“Anything to save a little bit because if you’re not careful, in a week you can blow a silly amount of money and then there’s an added pressure when it comes round to tennis.
“If you lose in the first round of singles and doubles you probably make $150 (£99) in a week.
“A lot of players at the Futures level are losing money because they are just doing everything they can to get up to the Challengers where you can start to make money.”
Rees has so far played eight events but will devote himself full-time to the international calendar next May when he has completed a masters degree in public administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and shaken off the knee injury that has stalled him in recent weeks.
This follows on from a four-year scholarship in North Carolina, during which time he played non-sanctioned, big-money tournaments in a bid to learn his trade and bank some cash.
As a result, he currently has no world ranking in singles or doubles, although he has come close to gaining the required points.
Despite the singles list featuring more than 2,000 players — the Challengers is for those ranked higher than 300 — Rees reckons time is on his side and he is determined to become a success.
His qualifications give him a cushion but he has been playing tennis almost every day since the age of 13, mainly at the town’s lawn tennis club in St Peter’s Church Lane, and is not about to stop any time soon.
“You’ve got to take the risk,” Rees said. “I am not giving up on that goal yet of making it and earning money playing tennis.
“It’s a really tough life on the Futures tour but I wouldn’t change it because I just love being out there.
“The players are peaking when they’re 27 to 28 now, they still retire early to mid-30s but they’re peaking later.
“I was never an amazing junior player. I still think I am improving now whereas a lot of players peak when they’re 18 and dip.
“For me, I have a ton of desire and motivation and every day I am learning.”