Soil nails (piles to eliminate soil movement) are in evidence as the extensive redevelopment of the All England Club takes shape. The first phase, a new No 1 Court, is due to be inaugurated for the 1997 championships, and 2,000 piles have been formed already; enough when joined end to end to stretch from SW19 to St Paul's Cathedral.
The great Rod Laver thought he had made a pile in 1968 when he received £2,000 as Wimbledon's first men's singles champion in the open era. The winner of the men's singles this year will collect £365,000, and his female counterpart £328,000. Total prize money tops £6m for the first time, having passed the £5m mark in 1993.
This represents an increase of six per cent compared with 12 per cent last year, when John Curry, the All England Club's chairman, made the point that the players did not earn what Barbra Streisand gets for one performance. Given the current state of the women's game, that is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, losers in the final round of pre-qualifying for the women's singles are to be paid £2,825.
Luckier still will be those British players who receive wild cards, considering that the prizes for first-round losers (£5,475 for men, £4,250 for women) are the size of training grants. It is also worth noting that the All England Club has increased its contribution to the grass-court tournaments taking place before and after Wimbledon to £1m.
The marvel is that Wimbledon continues to hand fortunes in pre-tax profits to the Lawn Tennis Association for the development of the sport (£125.5m since 1981). This is because funds to meet capital expenditure are raised by the sale of Centre Court debenture seats.
Curry promised that the building work would not mar the championships. "Every effort is being made to ensure that any inconvenience is kept to the absolute minimum for players and fans," he said.
On the Centre Court, the front nine rows of the covered stands have been re-asphalted, and 5,000 new tip-up seats installed. New seating has also been provided in the Royal box.
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