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SBD Global/October 3, 2012/Events and Attractions

Australian Open Raises Prize Money, Pool Totals More Than $30M

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Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena is seen during the Australian Open in January.
The Australian Open has "announced the single biggest prize-money jump in its history, with a record pool of A$30M ($30.8M) -- up A$4M from this year -- on offer at next year's event," according to Linda Pearce of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The move is designed to "avoid the mooted strike from the world's best men agitating for a greater share of tournament revenue," but organizers remain resolute in refusing to offer a fixed percentage share of the Grand Slam's income. Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood said the "breakdown of the prize money would be released after consultation with the players." However, a "redistribution to give a higher percentage to those who lose in the early and qualifying rounds is guaranteed," bringing the Open into line with the other slams (SMH, 10/3). Also in Sydney, Courtney Walsh wrote that Tournament Dir Craig Tiley met with the players' council, headed by world No. 1 Roger Federer. Tiley and other Australian officials "will head to Shanghai this weekend for further talks with Federer and the ATP to iron out how the additional prize money will be distributed." Although Federer's view is that it be shared among the lower-ranked players -- those beaten in the first-round of qualifying this year made about A$3,000 in the four slams, "hardly enough to cover a trip to Melbourne from the northern hemisphere" -- it is understood some highly ranked players "may not be as devoted to that ideology." Wood stressed it would be local officials that made the final call. Wood said, "We make the final call on how we distribute our prize money. We're looking for some input on that" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/3).

AUSTRALIAN RICHES: REUTERS' Ian Ransom wrote that the year's first Grand Slam is "the richest event in Australia's sporting calendar, with revenues used to subsidise the game's development across the country." But critics said the tournament's riches has "failed to produce enough world class players Down Under," particularly in the men's game, with 31-year-old double Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt the last Australian male to win a major at Wimbledon in '02. Wood said officials had already budgeted for a significant increase, but would have to do a "little bit of juggling" to allow for it. Wood said, "The early signs, which gives us great confidence, is that we're ahead of where we were in some of those (revenue-generating) areas over last year. So we're feeling like as a risk to our business, it can be manageable." One area that might help finance it is a A$5 "hike in general admission ground passes" to A$34, which thousands of tournament-goers buy to pack out Melbourne Park's minor courts and outdoor areas in the first week (REUTERS, 10/2). In Melbourne, Bruce Matthews noted most of the extra prize money "will be distributed in the first week of the 14-day championship, particularly to the losers in the first three rounds of men's and women's singles.” There also will be “an allocation for the pre-tournament qualifying events" (HERALDSUN.com.au, 10/4).

AMONG THE BEST: BLOOMBERG's Dex McLuskey reported that the Australian Open's $31.1M fund compares with $25.5M at the U.S. Open, $26M at Wimbledon and $24.1M at the French Open this year. The ATP said in a statement: "We welcome the increase in prize money for the 2013 Australian Open and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis Australia to recognize the role of the players in the success of the tournament. We also look forward with confidence to continuing these successful discussions with a view to a longer-term understanding" (BLOOMBERG, 10/1). The AP reported Tiley said that he had been in contact with Rafael Nadal, who indicated he was "still targeting the Australian Open for his return to Grand Slam tennis from a left knee injury that has sidelined him since Wimbledon." Tiley said in a statement, "Expect Rafa to be one of many great stories in January" (AP, 10/2).
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