Record prize for Aussie Open
Melbourne - The 2013 Australian Open will offer a record Aus$30 million (US$31.1 million) in prize money, as organisers respond to threats of a boycott from players agitating for a greater share of revenue.
Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said on Tuesday the Aus$4 million hike from the last tournament was the single biggest increase in the history of the opening Grand Slam of the season.
"We are proud to announce this major increase in prize money," he said.
"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."
It follows reports in August that players on the ATP Tour, which runs the men's game, were considering a boycott of January's tournament in a bid to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam event revenues for themselves.
At issue is the pay of lower-ranked players who often exit in the first round after making the long journey Down Under.
While this year they pocketed Aus$20 800 ($21 600 US) for a first round defeat at the Australian Open, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year, as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.
Without a high profile, they are also unable to score lucrative sponsorship deals that could help sustain their careers.
Wood said Tennis Australia officials would seek further input from the players regarding a more equitable distribution of prize money, with an announcement on the breakdown closer to the tournament.
"We are supporting the lower-ranked players in their quest for compensation," he added.
ATP chief Brad Drewett said he was encouraged by the move.
"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," he said in a statement.
"We also look forward with confidence to continuing these successful discussions with a view to a longer-term understanding."
When reports of a possible boycott emerged, Australian Open director Craig Tiley said he did not view them with alarm, and made clear the prize money issue was not just a Grand Slam problem.
"It's an all-sport problem and I think the entire sport needs to sit down and help address the issue, because at the lower ranks of our sport the prize money hasn't changed in 25 years and that's just not good enough," Tiley said.