It's starting to pay to lose at the Wimbledon tennis championships.
The tournament has boosted pay by 100 percent over the last three years for players who lose in the early rounds, the All England Club said.
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Singles players who exit this year's tournament in the first round will receive 27,000 pounds ($45,500), or an increase of 15 percent on last year, according to information the club, which organizes the event, released today at a press conference. Second-round losers will get 43,000 pounds, or 13 percent more, while defeat in the third round will be rewarded with 71,000 pounds, also an increase of 13 percent.
"It is a lot of money, but for the last three years we've been trying to emphasize increases in our prize money targeted at those players who we believe will need it the most," Phil Brook, chairman of the All England Club, said in an interview on Centre Court today. "Reaching the top echelon is a very long and difficult road, and it's a very expensive road to travel."
Wimbledon boosted its total prize money for this year's grass-court major by 11 percent to a record 25 million pounds. The men's and women's singles champions will be rewarded with 1.76 million pounds each, 10 percent more than last year.
Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli were last year's winners. Murray was the first British man to clinch the championship on the London lawns since Fred Perry in 1936. France's Bartoli won her lone major title in London and won't play after retiring last year.
The club also said Stella Artois has become its official beer brand for the two-week championships, which start June 23.
The prize money at the French Open, which starts May 25 in Paris, rose by 3 million euros ($4.2 million) to a tournament record 25 million euros. That compares with A$33 million ($31 million) at this year's Australian Open and $34 million at last year's U.S. Open.
Players on the men's ATP World Tour, including top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain, have repeatedly called for a higher share of Grand Slam revenue from the sport's four majors: the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon.
The annual cost of playing pro tennis is $143,000, according to a 2010 study by the U.S. Tennis Association. Lower- ranked players find it difficult to pay for coaches, travel and other expenses to stay on the professional tour.
Brook said Wimbledon is "aware" of an increase in early- round withdrawals since the four tennis majors started boosting prize money in those sections of the draw.
"There are some issues," Brook said. "We have been monitoring for a number of years the number of withdrawals -- not just at Wimbledon but also in other Grand Slam tournaments. We're not seeing any particular increase which we might link to an increase in prize money. But it's also true to say that there are instances at every Grand Slam tournament of players who are perhaps coming onto court not entirely fit."
Brook added that Wimbledon shares and discusses data on early-round withdrawals with the other three Grand Slam tournaments.
"It is something that is on our mind as one of the potential negative side-effects of such big prize money increases," he said.