Men’s Tennis Tour Increasing Prize Money on Lower Ranks

The men’s tennis tour will increase prize money on the bottom levels to ease the rising cost of playing professional tournaments.

The lowest-paid Challenger Tour events will increase to $50,000 in minimum prize money from $40,000 by 2017, the ATP World Tour said today in an e-mailed statement. The 150-event tour serves as a springboard to elite tournaments.

The Australian Open starting Jan. 19, the first of four Grand Slam events this year, is offering a record A$36.3 million ($29.5 million) total prize money.

“It is essential that we see growth across all levels of the game,” said Chris Kermode, ATP executive chairman and president. “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.”

Pay increases on the Challenger circuit had lagged behind the ATP World Tour in the past decade. Prize money on the men’s tour jumped 57 percent to almost $86 million in the 10 years to 2013, compared with a 31 percent gain to $9 million in Challenger events.

The Challenger Tour helps the overall health of the sport, said Alison Lee, ATP executive vice president of the International Group region who led a review of the Challenger Tour. “We need to ensure that the lower levels of the professional game do not get left behind.”

According to a study published last month by the International Tennis Federation, players have to be ranked at least No. 336 on the men’ tour or No. 253 on the women’s WTA tour to break even. It put the average cost of playing professional tennis last year at $38,800 for men and $40,180 for women.

The ITF last month also said it would boost pay on the lower levels of its ITF Pro Circuit, which is made up of men’s tournaments with total prize money pots of $10,000 and $15,000, and women’s events with purses ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

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