MELBOURNE: The prize pool for the 2020 Australian Open has been boosted by 14% to A$71 million ($49.1 million), organisers said on Tuesday, with the biggest gains for players exiting in the early rounds.

Players losing in the first round of qualifying at the year’s first Grand Slam will take home A$20,000, up by a third from last year, while singles players who exit in the first round of the main draw will earn A$90,000, a jump of 20%. Second round players get a 21.9% hike to A$128,000.

Before the start of the 2018 Australian Open, Serb champion Novak Djokovic had to distance himself from media reports that he had pushed for a revolt over the way revenues from the four Grand Slams were distributed to help reward a larger group of players.

“We have long been committed to improving the pay and conditions for a deeper pool of international tennis players,” tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement, noting that overall prize money has more than tripled since 2007.

“This year, as we do every year, we worked with the tours to establish the weighting for prizemoney increases round-by-round, and we pushed to reward players competing early in the tournament in both singles and doubles.

“We strongly believe in growing prizemoney at all levels of the game and we will continue to work with the playing group to create viable career paths in the sport and enable more players to make more money.”

The 2020 women’s and men’s singles champions will receive smaller increases in prize money, with both winners taking home A$4.12 million, up $20,000.

Players can usually secure a main draw appearance in the tournament, which starts on January 20, by having a ranking in the top 100.

Prize money has increased 61.4% at the Australian Open over the last five years, generally in keeping with prize money increases at the other Grand Slam tournaments the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, where this year’s championship at Flushing Meadows paid $57 million in prize money and $3.85 million to the singles winners.

Naomi Osaka of Japan is the reigning women’s singles champion at the Australian Open while Djokovic claimed a record seventh title by defeating great rival Rafa Nadal in the 2019 final.

In a report published last year, an International Review Panel commissioned to address betting-related and other integrity issues said that players in the lowest tiers were susceptible to being corrupted because of the difficulty of making a living, with only 250-350 players earning enough money to break even.

The International Tennis Federation last week annou­nced a series of measures as part of its fight against corruption in the sport’s lower levels.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2019