Tennis: Australian Open throws money at players to ward off boycott
AUSTRALIAN Open organisers have moved to stave off the threat of a strike by leading male players by offering a record prize pot for the opening grand slam event of the 2013 season.
Reports earlier this year suggested the tournament could be boycotted by players who believe they should be a given a higher percentage of tournament revenues.
The issue, which was addressed at a players' meeting in Melbourne ahead of last year's event, is centred on prize money for those who lose in the early rounds having incurred the costs of making the long journey Down Under.
The total pot in Melbourne in January will be 30 million Australian dollars (€24m) - which represents a rise of AUD$4m on the 2012 tournament, making it the richest in tennis history.
Prize money for this year's Wimbledon amounted to €20m, while the US Open paid €19m.
"We are proud to announce this major increase in prize money. We have led the world in prize money for these incredible athletes and we want to ensure that the Australian Open continues to make a major contribution to the financial wellbeing of professional tennis players," Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said.
The ATP was pleased with the news, with the body's executive chairman and president Brad Drewett praising the increase.
Drewett said: "We welcome the increase in prize money for the 2013 Australian Open and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis Australia to recognise 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."
Also announced today was the introduction of the Hawk-Eye electronic line monitoring system for show courts two and three.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said he was confident Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal will have overcome a knee injury in time to play at the event.
Nadal has been out of action since his shock loss to Czech Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon.
"Expect Rafa to be one of many great stories in January," Tiley said.
"(We expect) a formidable title defence from our brilliant reigning men's champion, Novak Djokovic, and some major challenges from the great Roger Federer, US Open 2012 champion Andy Murray and any one of a group of (David) Ferrer, (Juan Martin) Del Potro, (Tomas) Berdych and (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga."
As well as Djokovic in the men's event, Victoria Azarenka is due to return to defend her women's singles title, with the tournament due to run from January 14 to 27.