I was never big on tennis; I only played one summer in college against a friend of mine. How competitive? We didn't even know how to serve properly, but it was a lot of fun. And I've never been big on watching tennis; I catch the majors occasionally, but don't go out of my way to do so. I should point my father-in-law at this article; he did play at the men's league level for many years, so he'd know a lot more about that.
In any event, it's an excellent article that talks about the differences between #1 in the world and #100. You'd think that most people in any profession would be pretty happy to be known as just being in the top 100. And yet, you look at an article like this:
By the way, if you’re interested, the ATP tour updates and publishes its world ranking weekly, and the rankings constitute a nomological orgy that makes for truly first-rate bathroom reading. As of this writing, Mahesh Bhudapathi is 284th, Luis Lobo 411th.
And then moves on to how much they make in those qualifying tournaments:
The qualie circuit is to professional tennis sort of what AAA baseball is to the major leagues: Somebody playing the qualies in Montreal is an undeniably world-class tennis player, but he’s not quite at the level where the serious TV and money are. In the main draw of the du Maurier Omnium Ltée, a first-round loser will earn $5,400, and a second-round loser $10,300. In the Montreal qualies, a player will receive $560 for losing in the second round and an even $0.00 for losing in the first. This might not be so bad if a lot of the entrants for the qualies hadn’t flown thousands of miles to get here. Plus, there’s the matter of supporting themselves in Montreal. The tournament pays the hotel and meal expenses of players in the main draw but not of those in the qualies. The seven survivors of the qualies, however, will get their hotel expenses retroactively picked up by the tournament. So there’s rather a lot at stake -- some of the players in the qualies are literally playing for their supper or for the money to make airfare home or to the site of the next qualie.
It gives quite an appreciation for what these people need to go through if they want to be in the very top echelon. Remembering, of course, that the vast majority of these people will never make it (the focus of the article, Michael Joyce, actually topped out at #64. A couple of months before this was written, in fact). It's a humbling thought, and gives me a great deal more appreciation for the players no one has heard of, and not just in tennis.
In fact, I think I'll look into whether the annual DC tournament, the Legg Mason Classic, has a qualifier I can go to, even if only for photographic purposes.