Losing at Wimbledon will be more rewarding than ever this summer. The All England Club yesterday announced a rise of nearly 11 per cent in total prize-money at this year’s Championships to £25m, with the increases again weighted in favour of those who lose in the early rounds.
First-round losers in the men’s and women’s singles will earn £27,000, an increase of nearly 15 per cent on last year. Only three years ago, they won just £11,000. Second-round losers will earn £43,000 and third-round losers £71,000. The champions still receive a healthy rise of 10 per cent on the £1.6m Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli won last year.
The rises are a reflection of the All England Club’s appreciation of how much it costs for players to compete on the main tours. Very few players ranked outside the world’s top 150 are able to make a living from their sport. “We’ve placed emphasis on the large group of players who need our help the most, those players who lose in qualifying and in the early rounds of the Championships,” Philip Brook, the Wimbledon chairman, said.
Yet with such substantial prize-money on offer there are concerns that some players could be tempted to compete despite pre-existing injuries, even though they might have to retire or stand little chance of winning. Brook said Wimbledon was aware of such concerns and would continue to monitor the situation.
Richard Lewis, the All England Club’s chief executive, said statistics showed retirements through injury had not increased significantly in recent years. “I slightly take issue with the notion that players will turn up and lose,” he said. “I have to make the point that the players have worked hard to get there.”
Brook indicated that Murray’s seeding this summer was likely to be considerably higher than his present ranking at No 8 in the world. Wimbledon adds extra points from grass-court results over the previous two years to determine its seedings. Murray, runner-up and champion in the last two years, could be seeded as high as No 4.
Wimbledon hopes to have a retractable roof installed over Court One by 2019, with two extra rows of seats increasing the capacity to 12,400.