As the highest gamers in girls’s tennis collect in Fort Price for subsequent week’s WTA Finals – with a complete of $5m in prize cash at stake – life could be very totally different on the different finish of the world rakings.
Algeria’s Ines Ibbou performs on the Worldwide Tennis Federation (ITF) tour, the place the rewards are properly under these on supply on the Grand Slams.
For the 23-year-old, who’s ranked 502 on this planet, each expenditure must be tightly managed.
“Every week [on tour] can shortly imply 1500 to 2000 euros ($1490-1990) of spending – only for me, with no coach or anybody else,” Ibbou instructed BBC Sport Africa.
“Flight tickets are very very costly for the time being. Tickets could be as much as 400-500 euros only for a single flight.
“Then you definitely add the lodging, meals, extras, strings – now we have to pay for all the pieces.
“The highest 10 earn actually good cash, however you actually solely begin to make a residing from tennis once you attain the highest 200. Ranked above 200, you barely handle to cowl your prices.
“My goal is absolutely to achieve the very best degree, to be among the many 200 finest gamers on this planet. If I attain this level, I can play Grand Slams. However to get there, I must handle the monetary half. “
The challenges which Ibbou, who gained her first skilled title on the age of 14, faces have been highlighted at a event within the Canary Islands in August.
She would have gained $60,000 in prize cash if she had triumphed – in comparison with the $57,500 and $80,000 which first-round losers get at Wimbledon and the US Open respectively.
“It is unattainable to make a residing in tournaments like these,” Ibbou mentioned after her second-round exit.
“Simply to come back [to the Canary Islands]I made a 48-hour journey and tried to purchase the most cost effective flight ticket.
“It is a small lodge room I’m sharing with one other participant – we really performed in opposition to one another. Whenever you share a room, you [only] pay half of it so it is good for us.”
Prime-level gamers have a bunch of racquets offered by sponsors, typically switching mid-match when making ready to return serve and infrequently breaking them when issues don’t go their approach.
Ibbou, nonetheless, doesn’t have such luxuries – with simply 4 in her kitbag.
“I can not afford to vary them for every event, and I feel I’ve owned these for 2 years now,” she mentioned.
Ibbou has additionally linked on the kindness of strangers to make ends meet.
“I performed in Germany in a event in Horb. It is a tiny village in the course of nowhere, the place a pleasant woman who I wish to thank hosted me for 3 to 4 days at her place.
“She opened her doorways, fed me, it was very nice. Nevertheless it does not occur loads.”
Battling inequality and visa problems
Ibbou is Africa’s consultant on the ITF gamers’ panel, and hopes to assist discover options to different issues confronted gamers from the continent.
“I feel for each African, male or feminine, it is actually difficult as a result of there’s a structural inequality,” she mentioned.
“As an example, if you’re Senegalese, Namibian or from every other African nation, you need to journey to play as a result of there aren’t any tournaments in our international locations.
“However when you find yourself European, French or Spanish for instance, in a single yr you possibly can have a dozen tournaments at house. You needn’t journey or to purchase a airplane ticket.”
African gamers typically encounter visa points when touring to tournaments, which Ibbou says could be “difficult”.
“For instance, when I’m enjoying a event in France and I must go to Turkey or Thailand, it is advisable have a residence within the nation [to get a visa],” she added.
“When I’m in France, I’m purported to dwell there to have the ability to get a visa – however I haven’t got a residence in France which implies I’m supposed to return to Algeria to get a visa, which may take a very long time to course of.
“I can await a solution for 2 or three weeks. Generally individuals acquired concerned to assist me get a visa however it was at all times a problem or very last-minute. It is onerous for me to plan a schedule for the entire yr.”
Amine Ben Makhlouf, the ITF regional officer for Africa, admits aspiring gamers from the continent should deal with further challenges.
“There are two predominant issues in Africa. The logistics are very tough for gamers to journey round Africa and from Africa to Europe,” he instructed BBC Sport Africa.
“For an African gamers to carry out at a excessive degree they want visas and this takes two to 3 months of his yearly competitors programme.”
In the meantime, African federations wouldn’t have the requisite funds to help their gamers – with round $150,000 wanted per participant per yr to maintain a full programme, together with coaching and competitors.
“Aside from Ons Jabeur, there aren’t actually any African gamers on the high, high degree,” Ibbou mentioned, with the Tunisian set to participate within the WTA Finals for the primary time.
“Our federations do not have the funds of different federations. When you take the French federation, they do not have the identical funds the Senegalese one has. So, it is actually difficult.
“I’m attempting to do my finest to see an evolution within the African tennis however it’s difficult to be heard.”