Busta's barnstorming paid off in 2013

The reports that top-ranked Rafael Nadal made some $10 million for a comfortable week of exhibition work in South America recently makes you wonder how much the Spaniard with the most wins on the tour in 2013 might have pulled down for the same amount of work.

And I’m not talking about David Ferrer, who won 60 matches this year, well short of Nadal’s 75.

The Spanish player with the most wins this year was Pablo Carreno Busta, who brought new meaning to the world “journeyman” this year as he bounced around and fought his heart out in a whopping 110 matches.

Nadal and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic each played in 20 tournaments in 2013 (Djokovic’s tally includes four three-day Davis Cup ties, and in one of them he didn’t even play both his singles matches). In the top 10, only No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 9 Richard Gasquet played more than 24 events.

Busta, meanwhile, logged a whopping 29 and accumulated a record of 92-18.

Busta won those ATP sanctioned matches on the Futures, Challenger and main tours. That’s about 50 percent more wins than Ferrer accumulated (and they call him “the Little Beast” due to his consistency, stamina, and determination). All that work netted Busta a nice honor and a trophy he’ll be able to show off to his grandchildren. He was named the ATP’s “Jugador de Mayor Progreso,” or Most Improved Player, for 2013.

It may seem that, based on his degree of participation, Busta basically got paid for showing up. But that’s not true. In fact, a bunch of guys actually played more events, led among top-50 players by No. 47 Lukas Rosol, who entered 33. But none sustained the quality Busta was able to muster, week in and week out.

His payoff was an amazing 651-place leap in the rankings, from No. 715 to No. 64. At one point, Busta won 39 consecutive matches in the span of a mere 77 days.

Grinding out those wins enabled him to pull down $174,538, which is only about $35,000 more than Ferrer collected when he failed to win even one match for less than a week’s work at the World Tour Finals. And it’s actually a few grand less than what Nadal carried off when he failed to win Shanghai and had to settle for a semifinal payout of $180,075.

And they say there’s a war going on between Wall Street and Main Street?

The cutoff for breaking even after expenses as a pro these days is at around the No. 150 ranking mark; fall below that and it’s deficit spending. You may end up having to call up No. 21 Jerzy Janowicz to ask if he’ll sell that car he used to sleep in as he traveled from tournament to tournament (until he hit it big at the Paris Masters a little over a year ago).

Jerzy probably would give you a good deal on it, and rest assured it’s got plenty of room to stretch out (Janowicz is 6-foot-8).

The encouraging thing for Busta, who’s still just 22 years old, is that Janowicz never did look back once he crashed the top-100 party. Jerzy didn't have a great year in 2013, but still made it to No. 21 and he earned over a million dollars in prize money.

Assured of direct entry into almost all tournaments (and certainly all Grand Slams) as the year begins in January, Busta is entitled to feel like a made man. He can afford to cut back a little on his schedule, and thereby avoid landing on the list of people hoping to find a right-arm donor.