You often hear about elite athletes and their luxurious lifestyles, but in tennis, it couldn’t be more wrong.

Unless you are somebody who falls inside the top 100 in the world… than you are not somebody, you are a “nobody”.

Tennis is a sport where it is top-end heavy in terms of prize money.

A lot of the guys outside the top 100 aren’t playing grand slams consistently, where the big coin is up for grabs, so it is definitely a lot tougher for the guys that aren’t quite there in the rankings.

I’ve fought to be ranked #124 in the world (doubles), before injury struck, and even then I was almost maxing out credit cards and trying to cut costs down wherever I could.

But maxing out credit cards, living week to week, that lifestyle is from the glitz and glamour most people associated with a professional athlete.

I don’t come from a mega-wealthy family, but they try as hard as they can to help me where possible.

But it comes to a point where you can’t shake the guilt when they’re helping you out.

My girlfriend is the best thing that has ever happened to me – she’s working a full time job and has almost been like the rock in a way to allow me to pursue my dream of breaking into the top 100.

Because being on Tour isn’t cheap.

Steven De Waard exclusive insight tennis

Any prize money I have either gone towards advancing my tennis career, or paying off bills and expenses.

On Tour it is difficult because everything needs to be paid in advance from medical support to hotel rooms and tournament fees.

When you’re booking flights last minute they’re a lot more expensive and the costs add up a lot quicker than if you were able to plan months in advance.

But if you are a wildcard entry, you may not be invited to play until the last minute, so the pressure elevates especially if the prize money on offer is too good an opportunity to bypass.

As such, you really do look for all ways you can keep costs down and save money.

For me recently, cutting back on the $100 travel insurance seemed like a genius idea. For one, I didn’t even have the $100 to begin with, and two, it did not seem to be something I would need to worry about anyway.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I just completed a stint in Europe competing at several different tournaments, and then went to Canada for the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open.

As planned, I travelled without travel insurance, to keep the pressure away from my wallet.

As it turned out, my appendix burst while I was in Canada and I was taken by ambulance to the emergency ward.

Six hours later, I was there lying in my hospital bed recovering from the ordeal, one of the nurses came into my room to hand me the medical expenses sheet… all up, it came to $14,000.

Yep, $14k! WTF was I supposed to do now.

I’m in a foreign country, with no family or friends to lean on, no money, and an enormous medical bill I am no chance of paying.

Thank god, but the surgeon said I could pass off the hospital bill in installments, which to this day I am still doing now.

One of the local country tennis clubs set up a GoFundMe page, and have helped me raise $7,000 which has been a massive stress relief. If it weren’t for their generous, I would honestly be screwed right now!

People think once you turn pro, you’ve made it… but my situation is a stark reminder of how that simply is just not the case.

Fans only ever see the top guys and girls on TV, and it’s great for those players because they are highly-ranked and deserve their appearance fees and the sponsors they attract.

But if you are not in that top 100, you really are at the bottom of the barrel.

Steven De Waard exclusive insight tennis

So given the hardships, struggles and constant headaches I am put through – the question I get asked a lot if – “Why do you still do it? Why do you continue to persevere with something that you can coming up short in?”

It’s simple… I have a massive love for the game and a desire to actually achieve my goals which keeps me going.

If I didn’t have so much love for it, there is no way I’d want to keep doing what I’m doing.

Doing the same thing over and over and not getting the result.

The fact that I have the goal and desire to keep going despite how tough it is at the moment.

I just feel I have a goal to one day make a living out of tennis, and I kind of understand how you have to go through the hard times to get to the spot you need to be.

But  after having surgery, I need to take a step back and actually pay this off and get some cash.

So I can justify going out there and really going again without having an insane amount of debt.

When I’ve got clearer mind, and feel like I’m ready to go again, I will be back.