David Marrero, 2013 ATP Finals doubles champion and fourteen-time ATP doubles titleholder, is well placed to know about the difference between the various levels of the professional tour. “We cannot compare the Futures and Challengers tour with the ATP, they have nothing to do with it,” he told TWUSA.
“It is true that there are some Challengers that are very good, they are very similar to the ATP, but the help we get during ATP tournaments, the treatment above all, and the conditions are wonderful. We are talking about possibly the best tournaments in the world—the hotels are paid, somebody will always get you from the airport, they give you enough facilitations to do everything you need”.
With more than a hundred ITF, Challenger, and ATP finals under his belt—in both singles and doubles—and over twenty years of experience on the circuit, Marrero can draw a reliable picture of the contrasts between the tours.
“All the good players started playing in this category. I remember when I was 19, 20 years old and I started playing like that, going to far places to try to get my first points to raise my ranking. The difference in game level is basically large because if the ATP level were similar to the ITF level, in the end, there would not be many ITFs, everyone would be playing in the ATP”.
What about the other pillars of an athlete’s career, such as nutrition, physical and mental training? “You don't see much of it at these levels for two reasons. First, the lack of information, like knowing exactly what you need to avoid losing energy.
Second, the economic level. Traveling with a coach, with a nutritionist, with a physical trainer… If a tennis player can spend 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars over a year only on flight tickets, depending on where he travels, if he travels with two more people, the total multiplies.
It can become 150 thousand only for flights. Plus the hotels, because hospitality is not included at this level, plus the diets. The difficulty is very, very, very elevated”. At the time of our conversation (early December 2019), Marrero was playing ITF tournaments in the Dominican Republic.
On a tour trip with a young man he coaches, he had seen the opportunity to enter the draw of the qualification and decided to get along with it. The simple fact of repeating an experience he had first started two decades ago made him remember how complicated the life of an ITF-level player can be.
“Here, many players travel without coaches, and everything is more complicated. They have to build their life and try not to spend a lot of money because you practically earn no money. The competition, the training, and the players… What they face is very complicated.
Obviously, at 18 years old, they do not have the same mentality as when they are 25, 26. Little by little, as they mature and the years go by, they realize that tennis is not just being on a tennis court and hitting four forehands and four backhands.
You have to try to prepare yourself on a physical level to endure the maximum possible time on the court so that the practice sessions are of quality. All this takes preparation, it takes a few years”.