Wimbledon Says More Cash for Early Loss Not ‘Reward for Failure’

Losing in the early stages of the Wimbledon tennis championships has never been more lucrative.

The All England Club yesterday announced a 10 percent increase in total prize money for the tournament to 16.1 million pounds ($26 million). It’s the biggest jump since 1993 and most of it will be directed toward the early rounds. First-round losers will receive 14,500 pounds, or 26 percent more than last year.

“It is a lot of money, but I certainly wouldn’t regard it as being a reward for failure,” Wimbledon Chairman Philip Brook said in an interview on Centre Court in southwest London. “Half the people in our first round lose. That’s the nature of a knock-out tournament, and what we’re doing is recognizing their achievement for the rest of the year in terms of their world ranking and therefore their ability to compete at Wimbledon.”

Players on the men’s ATP World Tour have been fighting for a greater share of the revenue generated at the four Grand Slam tournaments. There was talk of a possible strike by players including Britain’s Andy Murray during last year’s U.S. Open. American John Isner, ranked 11th on the ATP, said at January’s Australian Open that players had a “legitimate beef” about the amount of prize money offered at the majors.

The players’ total prize money accounts for between 12 to 16 percent of revenue at the Australian, French and U.S. opens. Wimbledon doesn’t disclose its revenue.

‘Loud and Clear’

“We’ve heard pretty loud and clear from top players and tour management that there is a need for us to recognize the growing cost associated with being a professional tennis player,” Brook said. “It is an expensive business. There is a lot of travelling and there is a lot of support team that need to be taken care of. Those players were saying to us that something needed to be done. So for this year, we have directed most of our 1.5 million pound increase in prize money to what is at the end of the day quite a large group of players.”

This year’s men’s and women’s singles winners will receive 1.15 million pounds, a 4.5 percent increase over the prizes given to 2011 champions Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Czech Petra Kvitova.

Prize money for all three rounds of the Wimbledon qualifying event was also boosted by 21 percent. A defeat in the third round of qualifying is rewarded with 2,125 pounds, compared to 1,750 pounds last year.

Wimbledon, which will be held June 25 through July 8, followed the French Open in directing more prize money towards early-round losers.

The clay-court Grand Slam event, which starts May 27 at Roland Garros in Paris, two weeks ago announced losers from the second qualifying round through the third round of the main draw would be getting a pay increase of between 10 and 20 percent. The French Open singles champions will receive 1.25 million euros ($1.7 million), or an increase of 4 percent.

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