Wimbledon announces 40 percent hike in prize money

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This year's singles champions at Wimbledon will each receive 1.6 million pounds ($2.4 million) after the All England Club increased overall prize money by a record 40 percent for the biggest total payout in tennis history.

Wimbledon also announced Tuesday that it plans to build a retractable roof on Court No. 1 in the latest move to combat the rain delays that affected the tournament over the years.

Prize money will total 22.6 million pounds ($34.4 million), an increase of 6.5 million pounds ($9.9 million) from last year. The club called it the largest single increase and biggest total prize fund in the history of professional tennis.

The singles winners will get a 39 percent increase over the 1.15 million pounds ($1.75 million) that Roger Federer and Serena Williams picked up last year.

The focus of the money increase will be for players who lose in the early rounds or in qualifying of the grass-court championships, which will be played from June 24 to July 7.

Prize money will go up 60 percent for singles players who exit in the first three rounds. A first-round loser will earn 23,500 pounds ($35,800), up from 14,500 pounds ($22,100) in 2012.

The purse for qualifying is going up by 41 percent, while doubles players will receive a 22 percent increase.

Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said he wants to prevent players feeling ''less satisfied with the compensation.''

''The risk you run eventually by failing to invest is you get into a downward spiral - the championships at the moment are in an upward spiral,'' Lewis said. ''That's why we have a track record of investing and we will continue to invest.

''One of the reasons (players) feel like it's a fantastic event is because we treat them very well.''

The soaring payout comes amid wider economic problems in Britain.

''We absolutely understand we are not immune to what's going on in this country - quite the opposite - we fully understand that,'' Lewis told The Associated Press. ''But equally it's important that we invest in the event and we invest based upon the success of the championships.

''We get a good income from our commercial partners, our corporate hospitality, our TV, broadcast contracts, as well as the fans who come and support on the grounds.''

Meanwhile, the club said it intends to have a roof installed over Court No. 1 in time for the 2019 tournament. A retractable roof has been in place on Centre Court since 2009 to cope with rain, with indoor matches sometimes stretching late into the night.

''We are not going to go to being a night event,'' Lewis said. ''We are not going to have two sessions. There is no imperative to have more than two roofs.''

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