Tennis: Players get huge Wimbledon windfall

LONDON (REUTERS) - Wimbledon organisers moved to justify a staggering 40 per cent rise in total prize money that will give the 2013 championships the biggest prize fund in tennis.

Players at this year's grass-court Grand Slam, which starts on June 24, will receive a total of 22.6 million pounds (S$42.8 million) with the men's and women's singles champions each pocketing 1.6 million pounds, slightly more than this year's Australian Open winners.

Last year's Wimbledon singles champions earned 1.15 million pounds.

"These are significant increases and we have made them because we wanted to and not because we had to," All England Club chairman Philip Brook told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that also outlined plans to put a roof over Court One by 2019.

Asked if the rises were justifiable during a harsh economic climate in which many people struggled to afford tickets for the tournament, he said Wimbledon had to compete with other major sporting events.

"I know the economic climate is difficult, I accept that, but the world that we live in is a world where we are competing with other international tennis events and we also keep an eye on what is happening in other sports."

Brook said there had been no pressure from the world's leading players but said the prize-money increases reflected calls for more money for the lesser-ranked players who are often beaten in the early rounds.

Players who lose in the opening three rounds at Wimbledon this year will be the chief beneficiaries of the prize money rises with increases of between 62 and 64 percent.

Those who fail to survive a match at the championships will be rewarded with a 23,000-pound cheque, up from 14,500 pounds last year.

Even defeat in the qualifying rounds will be tempered by a 41 per cent rise, with 12,000 pounds going to players who fall at the last hurdle before the main draw.

Other plans included three more show courts, enhanced practice facilities and more landscaping of the south-west London site.