Grand Slam pay cut for women

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The Independent Online
Once the guardians of equal pay in tennis, the organisers of the Australian Open announced yesterday that next year's women's singles champion would have to accept a pay cut.

The men's singles champion at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year will receive pounds 305,000, an increase of pounds 12,000 over the prize-money handed to Boris Becker for his victory this year. The women's champion next January will get pounds 282,000 - pounds 10,500 less than was earned by Monica Seles this year.

The organisers' decision ahead of the 1996 tournament to pay men more than women after six years of equality provoked threats of a boycott by leading women players. The Olympic champion, Lindsay Davenport, described the move as a "huge step backwards''.

But the tournament director, Paul McNamee, said yesterday: "For a number of reasons, including economic, we do not pay equal prize-money at this point in our history."

As a percentage of men's prize-money, the women's pot has been marginally increased. Total prize-money will be about five per cent higher at pounds 5m.

Richard Krajicek and Steffi Graf, the current Wimbledon singles champions, both had victories yesterday. The Dutchman Krajicek beat Australia's Patrick Rafter 6-4, 6-2 in the Signapore Open and advanced to the quarter-finals.

Graf lost the first set against Austria's Judith Wiesner before winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the Leipzig women's tournament.

Graf, 27, whose father is on trial for tax evasion, held a 30 minute online news conference with up to 40 million Internet users potentially able to quiz her. The event was transmitted in pictures and sound direct from one of the halls in the Leipzig trade fair complex.

Mark Miles, the ATP Tour chief executive, has warned players they could face immediate default for abusive on-court behaviour in future. In an open letter to the players Miles praises them for their support of community projects, but reminds them to watch their conduct.