Tennis: Wimbledon raising the stakes: Profits and prize-money for the world's most famous tournament break new ground. John Roberts reports

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THE opening volley of Wimbledon was fired yesterday by the All England Club's chairman, John Curry. Asked if a 12 per cent increase in prize-money was too high, he said: 'They certainly don't earn what Barbra Streisand gets for one performance.'

This year's bonanza for the players has been raised to pounds 5,682,170 from pounds 5,048,450, and the titles are not going for a song: pounds 345,000 for the men's singles champion, pounds 310,000 for the women's.

One can only guess what Streisand received for her four concerts at Wembley Arena recently. Ticket sales, averaging pounds 100 per seat, totalled pounds 1m per night, less production costs and the wages of Streisand's crew, which included a 64-piece orchestra.

Centre Court tickets for Wimbledon (20 June to 3 July) range from pounds 19 for the first Monday to pounds 49 for the men's final, a total of pounds 430 for the 13 days.

Streisand made a guest appearance on men's quarter-finals day last year. She came to support her friend Andre Agassi, only to see the defending champion upstaged after five sets by the top seed, Pete Sampras, who went on to win the title and pounds 305,000.

Curry emphasised that he had 'no trouble at all' with the amount of the prize-money. 'This is for the best players in the world,' he said. 'The performances the champions give are fantastic over a number of rounds. It's an international tournament, and we have to be comparable. Sterling has reduced in value quite considerably over the last few years against foreign currencies.'

The women's top prize breaks the pounds 300,000 mark for the first time, though Wimbledon, in common with the French Open, continue to pay more to the men. It was suggested to Curry that the women ought to receive less than they do in view of the way their section of the sport has been dominated by one player, Steffi Graf, in the absence of the injured Monica Seles.

'Raising the differential is not a realistic alternative,' the chairman replied. 'The gap in women's tennis can change very quickly, and in recent years we have had two great finals, Graf v Sabatini (1991) and Graf v Novotna (1993).'

For winning the first open Wimbledon singles titles, in 1968, Rod Laver received pounds 2,000 and Billie Jean King pounds 750 - pounds 10 less than goes to first-round losers in the men's qualifying competition this year. First-round losers in the main draw receive pounds 5,175 (men) and pounds 4,010 (women).

As the prize-money has escalated, so have profits. The sum last year was pounds 16.4m, bringing the pre-tax total since 1981 to more than pounds 100m. This has been handed on to the Lawn Tennis Association to finance the British game.

Money from debentures is used for the Club's development projects. Restructuring plans entending into the 21st century have been passed by the Borough of Merton, agreement having been reached on benefits to be provided for the local community.

1994 WIMBLEDON PRIZE-MONEY

1993 in brackets

Men's singles

Winner: pounds 345,000 ( pounds 305,000). Runner-up: pounds 172,000 ( pounds 152,000). Semi-finalists: pounds 86,250 ( pounds 76,250). Quarter-finalists: pounds 44,850 ( pounds 39,650). 4th rd: pounds 24,150 ( pounds 21,350). 3rd rd: pounds 13,970 ( pounds 12,350). 2nd rd: pounds 8,450 ( pounds 7,470). 1st rd: pounds 5,175 ( pounds 4,575). Total: pounds 1,887,720 ( pounds 1,668,840).

Women's singles

Winner: pounds 310,000 ( pounds 275,000). Runner-up: pounds 155,000 ( pounds 137,500). Semi-finalists: pounds 74,000 ( pounds 66,720). Quarter-finalists: pounds 38,000 ( pounds 33,700). 4th rd: pounds 20,000 ( pounds 17,080). 3rd rd: pounds 10,800 ( pounds 9,570). 2nd rd: pounds 6,550 ( pounds 5,790). 1st rd: pounds 4,010 ( pounds 3,545). Total: pounds 1,564,040 ( pounds 1,382,660).

Men's doubles (leading prize-money): Winners: pounds 141,350 per pair ( pounds 124,960). Runners-up: pounds 70,670 ( pounds 62,480). Semi-finalists: pounds 36,260 ( pounds 32,060). Total: pounds 629,260 ( pounds 556,280).

Women's doubles (leading prize-money): Winners: pounds 122,200 per pair ( pounds 108,100). Runners-up: pounds 61,100 ( pounds 54,050). Semi-finalists: pounds 29,000 ( pounds 25,650). Total: pounds 501,380 (443,250).

Mixed doubles (leading prize-money): Winners: pounds 60,000 per pair ( pounds 53,020). Runners-up: pounds 30,000 ( pounds 26,510). Semi-finalists: pounds 15,000 ( pounds 13,260). Total: pounds 227,680 ( pounds 201,250).

There is also prize-money for the qualifying tournament, 35 and over events, 45 and over events and daily allowances to players.

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