Melbourne – Australian Open organisers on Wednesday boosted prize money for the 2014 Grand Slam to Aus$33 million (US$31 million) and said they expected all of the world's top 100 men and women to play.
The cash pool will be hiked by Aus$3million, after a Aus$4-million jump in 2013 to record levels, when organisers reacted to threats of a boycott from players pressing for a greater share of revenue.
“We said it last year and we still believe it Ä these incredible athletes deserve every cent and we will continue to do everything in our power to make the life of an international professional tennis player more worthwhile,” said Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley.
The January tournament, the opening Grand Slam of the season, is expected to attract all the world's top players, led by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Tiley said he was particularly looking forward to the return of Nadal, who missed last year's event through injury but who has bounced back this year with nine titles so far, including the French Open and US Open.
“Rafa has had an incredibly successful year and has to be a major contender to win the Australian Open for the second time,” he said, adding that US great Pete Sampras will attend as a guest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first of his two Australian Open titles.
Melbourne Park's third main showcase court, Margaret Court Arena, will be in use, but a retractable roof being built over it remains under construction and it will stay open throughout the tournament.
The event already has retractable roofs on the Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena.
In August the US Open prize pot jumped to a record $34.3-million, compared with $25.5 million in 2012. – Sapa-AFP