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13:00 Sunday 21 December 2014  Written by Graeme Copas

Pauffley is living the dream but with strings attached

 

Neil Pauffley
Neil Pauffley

Neil Pauffley is living the dream as a professional tennis player and has ambitions to make his mark in the game and earn his slice of the rewards.

However, currently his is the life of a journeyman, playing on the fringe circuits and earning a relative crust from one of the wealthiest sports in the world.

The former Altwood School pupil, who trained at Bisham Abbey Tennis Centre as a junior, has enjoyed a consistent season, culminating in him winning the end-of-season British Tour Masters at Nottingham this month.

Time and money are always in short supply as he enters as many tournaments as he can around the world to boost his current world ranking of 649 with the aim of pushing it back towards his career high of 403 last year.

Like many of his fellow players Pauffley puts any money he wins on the British Tour – he received £1,500 for the Masters win – towards his travelling expenses on the ITF Futures tour.

At times it’s a transient existence with little certainty for any players including the big-serving 24-year-old.

“Basically you go online and apply to enter a competition somewhere in the world,” he said.

“You find out the list of competitors 10 days before then you have four days to decide whether you want to take part or not.

“That then all comes down to the surface you’re going to be playing on and how strong the competition is and how likely you are to earn some money.

“You do this constantly throughout the year, it’s full on.”

As if to underline the non-stop and precarious nature of his career, the morning after his triumph at Nottingham, Pauffley flew to Egypt and then after one day to prepare played in a tournament, losing in the first round after a close three set-match.

Pauffley said: “That’s the way it is. There was little time to practise.

“Players tend to play tournaments for two or three weeks, get back into training for a short period, then go off for another two or three weeks.

“It costs a lot to travel to all these tournaments and a lot of good young players give up because they cannot fund themselves.”

Pauffley, who will doing some coaching at a boarding school next year to help fund his tennis, is hoping to earn a place on the higher profile Challenger Tour, but first he must improve his all-important world ranking.

“The rewards are better and there are chances for sponsorship,” he said.

“But I need a good year next year, hopefully getting my ranking down to the low 400s.

“It’s all about the rankings.

“I have confidence in myself. I have beaten players in the top 200, but I need some consistency.”

Pauffley is now embarking on a three-week, pre-season programme which he hopes will put him in top physical condition for an important year ahead – one which could determine how long he is able to continue doing what he loves; living the dream as a professional tennis player.

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