Australian Open 2013: Increased Prize Money Adds to Grand Slam's Appeal

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02:  Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley speaks during the 2013 Australian Open launch at Melbourne Park on October 2, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

At the 2013 Australian Open, even the losers are making a nice chunk of change.

In an effort to take care of its players and add more stock to the Aussie tournament, ESPN and the Associated Press are reporting that there has been a significant increase in the prize money handed out at the Australian Open.

Besides players earning more money for competing and winning, those who participate in the tournament are even seeing their travel expenses partially covered, which is unprecedented for the less popular players in the game.

For example, Coco Vandeweghe reportedly earned $29,100 for her first round exit at the Aussie Open, which apparently averages out to $370 for every minute she spent on the court.

Olivier Rochus lost in the first round and was still handed a $1,000 check to put toward travel expenses, which he was pleased with.

If you hand me a tennis racquet for a day, I promise you that I'll go all out if you pay me $370 per minute.

Getting back to reality, tournament director Craig Tiley told the AP:

I wasn't that long ago -- I'd say six or seven years ago -- the Australian Open was kind of regarded as the fourth cousin amongst the big four. It wasn't that long we weren't attracting the top players -- for many years (John) McEnroe missed it, (Jimmy) Connors missed it...

We've always had the view that tennis is a sport where if you're top 200 in the world, you should be the best in your profession, should have the opportunity to earn a living, support the cost of a coach, your own travel and be able to put some money away for your next career or some retirement.

With the increase in prize money, the level of competition should see an increase at the Aussie Open in the coming years, which will bring more attention to the tournament and add to its stock.

Professional athletes in other major sports—like football, baseball and basketball—make ungodly amounts of money, and there's no reason professional tennis players shouldn't earn more for their athletic efforts either.

Of course, stars like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have no trouble raking in the cash with the likes of high-paying endorsement deals, but other players have trouble making ends meet.

ESPN's article basically cites that only 75 to 80 of the top tennis players in the world are able to afford a coach, travel expenses and save money for retirement, which is in complete contrast to leagues like the NFL, MLB and NBA.

Take for instance Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who reportedly made more than $11 million in 2012 for pitching just 70 innings.

The same can be said for bench warmers in the NBA and the NFL, who still make more money than most above-average tennis players.

In a 2011 report conducted by Statistic Brain, the company found that the average salary for men's tennis was $260,000 and $345,000 for women, compared to $5.2 million for the NBA, $2.5 million for MLB and $1.75 million in the NFL.

While the average salaries of tennis players probably won't be increasing any time soon, it's refreshing to see the Australian Open stepping up and paying its participants accordingly.

If the trend continues, it shouldn't be too long before the Aussie Open becomes one of the most favorite tournaments among professional tennis players.


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