Anyone who has been in a long distance relationship knows how emotionally difficult and taxing it can be. Distance can strain even the strongest of partnerships. It is probably not all that surprising to learn that this type of relationship is an unavoidable reality for most of the people involved with the ATP Tour.
Of course the players themselves are subject to distance from their loved ones, but it is easy to forget about the support teams and tour employees who also spend a considerable portion of their year “on the road.” Traveling to various tournaments can separate partners and families sometimes for months at a time, which I have experienced firsthand as part of my relationship with Kevin.
Fortunately, for the last two and a half years I have been traveling the tour as a full-time tour wife. Being with Kevin as he experiences this special time in his life is one of the greatest things I ever chose to do. We are seeing the world together, supporting one another and making many memories with this incredible opportunity we have been given.
So why wouldn’t everyone choose this lifestyle; it sounds pretty great, right? It might surprise people to learn that there are currently only 3 WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends), myself included, traveling to EVERY tournament with their partner. There are a number of others who make it to many tournaments throughout the year, but not all. The reasons are varied why different individuals are unable to join their partners full-time, and some even choose not to do so.
I personally think the biggest reason most partners don’t travel the tour is that it can be cost prohibitive. Not only is air travel itself expensive, but the added cost of lodging is a major factor. The big expense of accommodation was actually something we weighed heavily in making my decision to start traveling with Kevin. He had previously been sharing a room with his coach most weeks, so the extra cost of an additional hotel room for 30 weeks a year was a scary financial burden to take on. We also had to consider the opportunity cost of me giving up my own career and income at Ernst & Young, which was not insignificant.
Another reason partners are forced to be apart is that there are often children or other familial commitments making it less than ideal to be on the road all year. Raising children is difficult in itself; now imagine putting them on 16 hour flights, while subjecting them to an unpredictable daily routine and schedule. Others have concerns that traveling with school-aged children robs them of a traditional education and participation in team athletics. These are valid concerns of caring parents. As much as families would like to be together, many people I speak with decide that the hectic nature of tour life is too taxing on young children.
The few “super moms” who manage to come to tour events with the whole family in tow are the real unsung heroes of the ATP; in my opinion, it seems nearly impossible to manage without professional help. I really am amazed by the women and men on tour who handle it all so gracefully. (“Four for you Glen Coco, you go Glen Coco!”)
I know that another big reason WAGs choose not to travel full-time is that many have their own pursuits and careers. Regrettably for many of us, choosing to accept the role of “tour wife” typically means giving up on our own career goals and aspirations. There are a number of ladies who manage a terrific balance between pursuing their own endeavors while still supporting their men. However, as evidenced by the limited number of full-time WAGs, giving up on their own careers and identifying completely with that of their partner is not something many young women want to do.
I personally feel the ever-changing nature of our schedule would make it difficult for me to be fully supportive of Kevin while also managing job commitments. Instead, I manage a number of Kevin’s day to day needs such as running errands, cooking or arranging our meals, booking flights, managing accommodations, communicating with his representation, and performing our bookkeeping. By “working” for him in a sense, I have relieved him of many business responsibilities. It works for us because I feel personal fulfillment in acting as an integral part of the team; meanwhile, it takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of Kevin, allowing him to focus solely on tennis.
The distance and time apart can be trying on even the strongest of relationships. Kevin and I met in 2005, he turned pro in 2007, and we had a long distance relationship for the next five years while I finished my degrees and began working as a CPA in Chicago. We often talk about how difficult it was when we would go up to three months at a time apart from each other. At the time, Skype and FaceTime didn’t exist, which meant we could only stay in touch via text message, email and calling cards (this was TOUGH!).
Even after our wedding in 2011, we continued long distance for another year. During this time we saw each other only when Kevin was able to take a break from the tour and come to Chicago, or when my 15 annual vacation days allowed me to visit tournaments. I would also jet off to ATP events in the U.S. on the weekends here and there, leaving on Friday afternoon and returning early Monday morning in time for work. Although the years we spent apart were incredibly difficult, our love for each other was strong enough that separating because of distance was never an option. The thought of losing our relationship far surpassed any difficulties associated with being apart.
So although it is easy to forget these difficulties as a spectator of a tennis match, I hope this post can help remind people of the fact that nearly everyone associated with this tour has had to endure some sort of experience with long distance love. We all make it work in our own individual ways, but the relationship challenges presented by this lifestyle are not often publicly discussed by players and individuals involved with the tour.
Our fast-paced and multinational travel schedules make it incredibly difficult to spend considerable amounts of time together with our loved ones and partners. The moments we do share together, though wonderful, often take place during high stress and emotional tournament situations. As such, it takes a tremendous amount of strength and independence to commit to this lifestyle. It is really incredible when I think of the major sacrifices made by so many players, their teams, and their loved ones as we all strive for excellence in this world of tennis.
Please share your stories with me in the comments section below. Have you ever had a long distance relationship? What types of challenges did you face? How did you overcome the difficult times?
You can also write me directly at: TourWifeTales@gmail.com
All the best!