Wimbledon offers bonus for tennis stars

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(CNN) — Wimbledon officials have announced the biggest increase in prize money in the history of tennis as part of a bid to make the sport attractive for future generations of players.

The All England Club, which organizes the oldest grand slam tournament, has hiked prize money by 40% to $34.4 million so the winners of the men and women’s competitions will each take home $2.4 million.

Wimbledon has also revealed that it will build a roof over Court No. 1, with the structure expected to be completed in time for the 2019 tournament.

The retractable roof, which is expected to be similar to that which has been in place on Center Court since 2009, will allow matches to progress despite any bad weather — with rain a regular threat at the grass-court event.

Wimbledon’s announcement regarding the increase in prize money on offer comes following a similar move by organizers of the Australian Open last October.

Players in Melbourne in January competed for a share of $31.1 million following an increase of $4.12 million.

This year’s U.S. Open will have its prize fund increased by $4 million to $29.5 million, while next month’s French Open will see the winners earn $1.95 million with the total purse up by 16%.

The increases in prize money come following pressure from top players concerned with the huge disparities between those who exit grand slam tournaments at an early stage and those who go much further.

At Wimbledon, the purse for winning the title has gone up with the male and female winner taking home a check of £1.6 million — a 39% increase on last year.

Wimbledon, which will be held from June 24 to July 7 this year, has also put more cash into the opening three rounds of the tournament by 60%.

Players losing in the first round will net $35,800, which is a big improvement on the $22,100 they would have picked up in 2012.

On top of that, the reward for qualifying for the tournament proper has gone up by 41% for singles players and 22% for doubles players.

“We need to make sure we are competitive as a sport,” All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis told the UK Press Association.

“It is not just about the top players, it is about making the sport attractive to the next generation of talent.

“That means players ranked from 50 to 100 and 100 to 200 need to be able to look at the sport and know they can make a good living.

“To be fair to the players and the players’ associations, that is one of the points they made to us, which we at never at any stage pushed back on. It is a legitimate point.

“We operate as a global event as a global sport and we need to be competitive for all sorts of positive reasons.”

The news has been greeted with excitement by some players, with world No. 98 Sergiy Stakhovsky taking to Twitter to register his excitement.

“I don’t want to sound crazy but I would like to give a big HUG to @Wimbledon board..exciting news..thank you very much gentlemen!!” he tweeted after the announcement.

According to the men’s ATP World Tour website, the Ukrainian has career earnings of $2.65 million, having been ranked as high as 31st, which pales into insignificance compared to world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

The Serb star has raked in $3.92 million in 2013 alone and $49.6 million in his career overall.

Philip Brook, chairman of the All England Club told the tournament’s official website: “For the players, it is a deep appreciation of the demanding nature of professional tennis and the top-quality entertainment they bring, while for The Championships it is about giving all our visitors the finest stage on which to enjoy Wimbledon.”

Last year Wimbledon made a profit of £37.8 million ($57.5 million) — an increase of 7%. Most of that is given to the Lawn Tennis Association to invest in developing British tennis.