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Tennis: Wimbledon to increase prize money

Wimbledon chiefs have increased the total prize money on offer at the grass-court tournament to £16.1 million ($26m, 19.7 million euros) in a bid to satisfy calls for a fairer distribution of the wealth at grand slams

AFP, Tuesday 24 Apr 2012
Wimbledon central court
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There has been growing unrest among players that too much of the prize money on offer at the four majors went to the top stars, who routinely reach the lucrative later stages, at the expense of the lower ranked competitors.

Late last year there were suggestions that the issue could even prompt strike action which would threaten the stability of the sport.

But All England Club officials entered into talks with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray -- the top four in the men's rankings -- to debate the problem at the Indian Wells event earlier this year.

And Wimbledon has responded to the big four's demands with a 10 percent increase of £1.5 million on the 2011 total prize money in a bid to ease the lower players' complaints that the cost of living on tour wasn't matched by the rewards on offer at tournaments.

While the men's and women's singles champions will now take home a cheque for £1.15 million, a £50,000 rise on 2011, it is the players who crash out earlier in the tournament who benefit most from the changes.

An increase of 26 percent in prize money for first-round losers means they get £14,500 ($23,400, 17,800 euros) for just a few hours unsuccessful work compared to £11,500 last year.

Second-round losers will get £23,125, a 14.9 percent rise, while third round defeats are worth £38,785, an increase of 13.1 percent.

The daily allowance paid to players in the men's and women's main draws have gone up from £170 to £200, while there is also a 21 percent rise for losers in the Wimbledon qualifying event.

The singles' runners-up will get £575,000 and beaten semi-finalists earn £287,500, both minimal rises of 4.5 percent.

"Wimbledon continues to be successful and we are delighted to share that success with the players by increasing total prize money by 10 percent, the largest increase since 1993," All England Club chairman Phillip Brook said.

"At the same time we appreciate the need to help players meet the rising costs associated with professional tennis, so the majority of the record £1.5 million increase will be distributed to those who are knocked out in the early rounds of the Championships."

Brook insists he was never concerned that reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic and his fellow stars were attempting to bully the grand slams and he instead praised them for raising an issue that they could easily have ignored since they already hoover up much of the prize money.

"There was never talk of (strike) action from players in any discussions I have had. We had very professional discussions with all the parties and hopefully it will be received well," Brook said.

"What we have in the top four players is a group of young men who are very responsible for all those around them.

"We didn't hear a request for more money for them, they wanted something done for the sport as a whole and were representing all the players, not just themselves.

"It is a positive development. When I met the players at Indian Wells we asked for the opportunity to have meetings like that on a regular basis. It can only be good to have dialogue with them.

"We heard genuine concern from top players and tour management that this was an issue and we have reacted to that."

However, with early-round losers flying home richer than previous years despite relatively unsuccessful tournaments, Brook had to fend off accusations that Wimbledon was rewarding failure.

"I respect the comment, but for anybody who is good enough in our sport to come through qualifying or be a direct entry it is an achievement of itself," he said.

"You only get that opportunity by having considerable success elsewhere on the tour during the year."

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