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Australian Open prize money increases as organisers target China

Australian Open organisers have announced a 10 per cent increase in total prize money for the 2015 edition of the grand slam tennis tournament, while Rafael Nadal has been engaged in a newly created ambassadorial role designed to further the event’s reach in the Asian market.

The 2014 Australian Open saw Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na claim the singles titles and boasted a prize pot of A$33m (€22.8m/$29.3m). This has been increased to A$36m for 2015, with a winners cheque of A$3m on offer.

Prize money for the four grand slams has increased markedly in recent years. The 2014 French Open offered total prize money of more than €25m, an increase of €3m in comparison with the 2013 edition of the tournament. The overall prize fund for this year’s Wimbledon Championships totalled £25m (€30.4m/$42m), an increase of £2.4m on the previous year’s event. The total prize money pool for the 2014 US Open was increased by 11.7 per cent to a record $38.3m.

The prize money news was one of a series of announcements made today (Tuesday) in Melbourne. The newly renovated Margaret Court Arena, which will provide a third covered show court after Rod Laver Arena's centre court and the Hisense Arena, was unveiled along with a series of initiatives designed to intensify the Australian Open’s push into Asia – with a focus on China.

The plan includes an eight-month campaign of events for fans and corporate partners focused on China. Fourteen-time grand slam champion Nadal has been named a ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ to help promote the tournament in Asia, while the third annual AO Wildcard Play-off will be held in the Chinese city of Shenzhen in November.

“For the past few years we’ve taken the Australian Open trophies through China and Asia as an exercise to build awareness of the event and the sport,” Tennis Australia commercial director Richard Heaselgrave said. “We’ve deliberately narrowed our immediate focus to the major cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen and plan to build strategic opportunities for engagement, both with the growing fan base for tennis in the region, and commercial and corporate partners.”

China registered the highest single rating broadcast of the 2014 Australian Open, with nearly 20 million viewers watching Li win the women’s singles final. Of the 342 million global viewing audience in 2014, Asia Pacific accounted for 177 million and China alone 107 million.