MELBOURNE, Australia. Glorious sun, huge crowds and the unmistakable Australian laid-back vibe have led the Aussie Open to be informally dubbed “The Lucky Slam”. But perhaps the biggest reason for the smiles on the players’ faces at Melbourne Park is the attractive prize money.
The tournament’s total prize pool has increased to A$76,500,000 ($53 million) in 2023, making it the second largest tennis tournament on the planet after the US Open. The singles champions will take home checks worth A$2,975,000 ($2.06m) this year, while even a loss in the first round will result in a staggering A$106,250 ($74,000) early exit from the tournament. US dollars).
A record A$100 million prize pool is on offer during the Australian tennis summer, which includes the lucrative new United Cup as well as ATP and WTA tournaments in Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.
“It is critical to the continued success of Australian tennis that we provide strong and relevant playing opportunities and ensure that the best players in the world are properly rewarded,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said ahead of this year’s tournament.
It’s a far cry from where the Australian Open was in the 1970s and early 80s.
At that time, the tournament was held in Coyong, an affluent suburb in the east of Melbourne. Although picturesque, the private club lacked facilities and infrastructure, and the grounds could barely accommodate 5,000 spectators a day. Considering the long journey for many players from the US and Europe, and the awkward time in December, the prize money would have to be significant to make the trip to the Dungeon worth it. Unfortunately, there was nothing of the kind.
Margaret Court’s triumph at the 1970 Australian Open earned her a measly A$700 (roughly A$9,700 in 2023). What did those losers in the first round earn? Nothing. Women had to make it to the third round to get paid, albeit A$30 (A$415 or so today). Men earned the same modest prize by performing in the second round.
It was hardly worth the trip for overseas players, and with many of the world’s biggest names choosing to skip the tournament, the Australian Open consistently featured significantly weaker fields, fueling the narrative that he was “extra” . majors.
That was until 1988, when Victorian Premier John Cain announced a new venue for the tournament, moving the event from Coyong to Flinders Park, an abandoned park located between Richmond and Melbourne’s CBD, today known as Melbourne Park. The playing surface was changed from grass to hard courts and a start date was set for mid-January. The world’s first retractable roof tennis stadium (now called the Rod Laver Arena) was also built, and the prize pools began to rise. The stigma surrounding the Australian Open quickly began to change for the better, and the stars returned.
Over the next 15 years, the Australian Open prize money closed the gap with other Grand Slams before eventually surpassing Wimbledon and the French Open in 2003 with a total prize pool of A$18.18 million. It was a landmark moment for the tournament that finally shook the “fourth slam” stigma.
A clever marketing campaign that promoted the Australian Open as the “Asia Pacific Grand Slam” then opened the door to Asia and led to the tournament’s popularity skyrocketing. Broadcast deals swelled, and so did the prize money.
Tylee’s appointment as tournament director for the Australian Open in 2006 also benefited the players; he and his team will go the extra mile for their athletes, from providing state-of-the-art facilities at Melbourne Park to offering unrivaled compensation opportunities. His tenure has been constantly praised by players from all over the world.
But just in the last decade, the Australian Open prize money has grown at an unprecedented pace. The total of A$30 million in 2013 doubled to A$62.5 million by 2019 and were it not for a couple of relatively flat years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would almost certainly have doubled again by 2023.
Another change to tournament prize pools in recent years has been a significant push to increase the share of the prize pool going to early round losers to ensure lower ranked players can earn a decent living and not work for nothing. a net loss despite appearing at Grand Slams.
The Australian Open adopted this philosophy.
In 2013, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka cashed A$2,430,000 of the winners’ checks, while the first round losers of that tournament received A$27,600 each. In these two weeks, the champions will receive 22% more than ten years ago, and those who do not win the main draw match will receive almost four times more home.
“We have increased the prize pool for each round from the qualifier to the final, with significant increases in the early rounds where these substantial rewards help players invest in their career and in many cases set themselves up for success throughout the game. a year,” Tylee explained.
Of course, income tax is paid on all prize money earned in the tournament. In Australia, any income over A$180,000 is taxed at a rate of 45%. This year, the singles champions are likely to take home close to A$1.6 million, rather than the advertised close to A$3 million. Those who lose in the first round will receive around A$79,000, losing nearly 25% to the Australian Revenue.
But even with tax cuts, that’s astonishing growth in 50 years.
Australian Open 2023 prize pool (all numbers in AUD):