“On Halloween night 2019, the Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil faced Chris O’Connell, an Australian, in a third-round match at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger in Virginia. The event was part of the A.T.P. Challenger Tour, a rung below the main circuit in men’s tennis. The match had a minor-league vibe: There were maybe a dozen spectators, and one of them was Pospisil’s coach. The total purse for the weeklong tournament was just $54,000, not uncommon for Challenger-level events. The winner would get $7,200.
Pospisil, a former Wimbledon doubles champion who sometimes sips maple syrup for energy during matches, was playing there as part of his comeback from an injury that sidelined him for the first half of the 2019 season. A strapping 6-foot-4 with perpetually flushed cheeks and thighs that look as if they were stolen from a linebacker, Pospisil has an aggressive game built around a big first serve, a concussive forehand and a deft touch at the net. O’Connell normally plays attacking tennis himself. Against Pospisil, however, he was thrust into the role of counterpuncher.
The match was a case study in contrasting fortunes as well. Tennis had left Pospisil very comfortable, with more than $5 million in career earnings. He was happy just to break even in Charlottesville and could afford certain luxuries, such as the presence of his coach and meals from Whole Foods, not available to many players on the Challenger circuit. The 25-year-old O’Connell, on the other hand, had made less than $200,000 as a pro and had cleaned boats and worked in a Lululemon shop to sustain himself financially. Heading into the match against Pospisil, he was ranked No. 139. He had recently won a Challenger event and reached the semifinal of another. He would go on to finish 2019 having won 82 matches in total, more than any other man or woman on the pro tour. Yet, after expenses, he would earn just $15,000 or so.”
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Michael Steinberger for this oustanding report. I’m caught off guard. Watching Novak Djokovic in the French Open, I decided to dislike him forever, mostly, because he bounces the ball too many times and takes too long before serving. Such behaviour is repulsive and unsportsmanlike. It is so difficult to find out that he is actually a good guy, maybe a hero of sorts, who just takes too long to serve, because of child abuse or some dark insecurity. Novak, I will support your union, and with enthsusiam, if you limit your ball bounces to six per serve.
David Lindsay prefers 24 serves to warm up his serve, writes about everything under the sun, including tennis, and occassionally climate change, at Inconvenientnews.net.