Australian Open tackles fall in dollar with fresh prize money increase

Australian Open organisers have announced a further rise in prize money to a record A$40m (€26.2m/$32.5m) as the year’s first grand slam tournament seeks to address the fall in value of the Australian dollar.

In October, organisers unveiled a 10 per cent increase in total prize money for the 2015 edition of the tournament, which begins on January 19 in Melbourne. The 2014 Australian Open saw Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na claim the singles titles and boasted a prize pot of A$33m. This was initially increased to A$36m for 2015, with a winners cheque of A$3m on offer.

The Australian dollar fell 4.1 percent in December and reached its lowest point in over five years this month against its US counterpart. The announcement today (Friday) means that prize money has effectively doubled since A$20m was offered in 2007. Men and women singles winners will each get A$3.1m while a first round loser will receive A$34,500. “We have done a lot of work within our business to position ourselves to make this critical investment in the players and for the long term future of the Australian Open,” Tennis Australia president Steve Healy said.

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 last 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.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley added: “Obviously this is not a decision we have taken without a lot of consideration. But we have an ongoing commitment to the players that we are determined to help improve the pay and conditions of life on the international tennis tour.”

In other news, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has unveiled efforts to enhance its Challenger Tour, including further increases in prize money. The Challenger Tour comprises approximately 150 tournaments each year and serves as a springboard for male players to compete on the World Tour.

The increases will take place at the lowest category of tournaments, with minimum prize money levels increasing from $40,000 plus hospitality to $50,000 plus hospitality by 2017. In addition, and with immediate effect, the ATP is offering all current minimum prize money tournaments a subsidy to move up to $50,000 plus hospitality from 2015.

The ATP said the latest increases mean that prize money at the lowest Challengers is set to increase by 100 per cent inside 10 years. In 2007, minimum prize money levels on the Challenger Tour were $25,000 plus hospitality.

“Men’s professional tennis is enjoying one of the most successful periods in its history, however it is essential that we see growth across all levels of the game,” ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode said. “Almost every player earns their stripes on the Challenger Tour before they make it on the ATP World Tour and every bit of extra prize money helps as they look to forge a career in men’s professional tennis. The ATP is committed to making that career path as viable as possible.”

Among other enhancements, branded nets will also begin to be featured at Challenger tournaments from 2015. With the majority of Challenger tournaments live streamed across the globe, the ATP said net branding will create a unified look for the circuit globally.