LONDON (Reuters) - The acceleration in the size of the prize money pot at Wimbledon continues to slow but the grasscourt championships remain the richest of the four grand slams.
All England Club officials announced on Tuesday a seven percent overall rise, compared to 10.8 percent last year and 40 percent in 2013, taking the total fund to 26.75 million pounds ($40.88 million).
The increases, unveiled by club chairman Philip Brook at a news conference, means the singles champions will pocket 1.88 million pounds compared to the 1.76 million handed to Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova in 2014.
First-round losers receive 29,000 pounds compared to 11,250 five years ago -- a 152 percent rise driven by a commitment to reward the rank and file pros.
“After three years of favoring the left-hand side of the draw (the first and second rounds) we feel we have got the balance about right,” said Brook.
“Without the world’s best tennis players we wouldn’t have the world’s best tennis tournament.”
The French Open recently announced a 12 percent increase in prize money, taking it to $29.61 million. This year’s Australian Open boasted $32 million while last year’s U.S. Open was worth $38 million.
Improvements in infrastructure have continued and all 19 courts will be in use this year after work to create facilities under numbers 14 and 15, which involved digging an area equivalent to 200 London buses, was completed.
As part of the masterplan, which in 2019 will see a new roof on Court One, Wimbledon’s player facilities have also been enhanced with six permanent ice baths installed, a bigger warm-up area and private massage rooms.
Hawkeye coverage will extend to courts 12 and 18, meaning players will be allowed to challenge tight line calls in six arenas rather than four.
This year’s Wimbledon begins a week later than usual on June 29, meaning a three-week grasscourt season.
Rafa Nadal will play in a new ATP grasscourt event in Stuttgart while Nottingham hosts a WTA and ATP event and pre-Wimbledon tournaments at Queens’s Club in London and in Germany will offer more prize money.
A new WTA grasscourt event will start in Mallorca in 2016.
“We hope every player competing at the championships will play at least one competitive week of tennis during those three weeks,” said Brook.
“We have created the opportunity and we hope all the players will come here well-rested, well-prepared and well-adjusted to compete on grass.”
($1 = 0.6540 pounds)
Editing by Ken Ferris