Tennis: Prize money at Australian Open rises to $45m, special tribute to Hewitt who's retiring

Prize money for next year's Australian Open will rise to A$44 million (S$45 million) to mark Lleyton Hewitt's final tournament.
Prize money for next year's Australian Open will rise to A$44 million (S$45 million) to mark Lleyton Hewitt's final tournament.PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Prize money for next year's Australian Open will rise 10 per cent to A$44 million (S$45 million), organisers said on Tuesday while revealing special celebrations are planned to mark Lleyton Hewitt's final tournament.

Tournament director Craig Tiley also announced a "friendship" agreement with the Shanghai Masters to open up the Grand Slam tournament to the Chinese market, with a new WeChat platform that will have a potential audience of more than 600 million.

Australian Hewitt, 34, has been granted a wild-card entry into the main men's draw for the January event, which will be his record 20th consecutive Open campaign at Melbourne Park.

Tiley said organisers still had to work out the details of how the tournament would honour the former world number one as he winds down his playing career.

Currently ranked 296, his best result at his home Open is runner-up to Russian Marat Safin in 2005 while he has not made it past the second round in the last three years.

He intends to retire following the tournament and take over Australia's Davis Cup captaincy.