SW19 | Wimbledon increases prize fund
The AELTC Spring press conference heralds the start of the Wimbledon build-up as the sport progresses through the May clay court swing onto grass in June with The Championships, marking the 150th anniversary of the Club itself, set to start on July 2. It also marks 50 years of Open tennis and 125 years of the Ladies’ singles championship.
In tennis you are on your own. We totally disagree with it. Richard Lewis
The main announcement focused on the prizemoney with each singles champion set to receive £2.25 million from a prize fund of £34 million, an overall 7.6% increase on last year.
At last year’s Championships, an embarrassing 8 players retired during their first-round matches citing a variety of injuries which has led the organisers to issue a warning that players who compete while knowingly carrying an injury, and then quit mid-match, face losing all their first-round prize money.
“In the wake of first-round withdrawals we pledged to act on it, and we have done so,” Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis told the assembled reporters.
“We were very influential in the creation and adoption of the 50-50 rule and hope the introduction of it will play a significant role in mitigating the problems of first-round singles retirements.”
This new rule states, if an injured player withdraws on-site after midday on the Thursday before The Championships, they will receive 50 percent of the first-round prize money. The other half will go to the ‘Lucky Loser’ drawn from the qualifying competition to replace him.
They will also be closely monitoring the performances of players to ensure that players do not fall “below professional standards” which if deemed to be the case, could attract a major fine.
Wimbledon will also strictly enforce a 7-minute maximum warm-up timing to speed up the game, but will extend the time allowed between points from 20 to 25 seconds, a point which will have to be reinforced with the umpires themselves.
However, they have rejected an on court ‘shot clock’ for the time being, “We aren’t totally convinced yet,” Lewis added. “The rule is there to be enforced by the umpires. The visibility could be counter productive. We are very content with wait and see for now.”
There will be no coaching on court and by the sounds of it, there never will be. “In tennis you are on your own. We totally disagree with it,” Lewis declared.
On the subject of toilet breaks and injury time outs, the Club were unhappy by the obvious time-wasting and have discussed it with physios and doctors.
“It is a concern, it’s not easy to deal with. We have had discussions with people on the medical side,” Lewis revealed pointing out potential litigation problems concluding toilet breaks were a form of ‘gamesmanship’.
The recent IRP Interim Report into corruption within the sport was also addressed with the organisers underlining their commitment to combating said corruption.
They are also improving on their established ‘Green’ programme with a ban on plastic straws — some 400,000 were used at last year’s tournament — the introduction of 10 electric Jaguar vehicles in the courtesy car fleet; additional water-fill points around the grounds and the provision of paper bags at Wimbledon’s shops.
“Sustainability is an important and necessary area of focus, particularly for major events,” Lewis said. “We have put in place a sustainability vision which is to sustain the running of the club, and the championships in a way that minimises the impact on our environment.”
Finally, Philip Brook the Club Chairman confirmed that the Club were making an offer to the Wimbledon Park Golf Club to bring forward their acquisition of the freehold ahead of the scheduled 2041 date.
“We have made an offer for the early surrender of the lease and that offer is being considered by the golf club’s board,” Brook revealed when the question was put to him. “We are seeking clarity. Bringing Wimbledon qualifying on site is a priority for us.”