A change long-talked about might be on its way in the world of tennis as the Coronavirus pandemic forced organisers to redistribute income more equally among players at the Australian Open 2021. The upside-down pyramid model of prize money distribution in the sport — which sees top players earn double or more than lower-level players — has been a point of contention for some time now. The COVID-19 pandemic may see permanent changes instituted in this system — or it may just be a one-time thing — but for Day 1 losers of the Australian Open 2021, it is good news at least on this front.
After announcing a surprising 12.7% increase in the Australian Open prize money pool, the organisers of the event have confirmed that 100% of that increase will go towards lower-ranked players or players who crash out of the Slam early on. The male and female singles champions will receive A$2.75 million (₹15.47 crores) each at the Slam this year — the lowest pay for an Australian Open singles champion since 2014. Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin took home a massive purse of A$4.12 million last year — A$1.37 million less than what 2021's champions will get.
The decision was made with regards to the fact that tennis players pay for their own travel, accommodation and coaching staff. This year’s losing finalist will make A$1.5 million — a reduction of 27% from 2020. A first-round loss will earn players A$100,000 — an increase of 11% while second-round losers will make A$150,000 — a gain of 17%. The biggest increase has been awarded to Round 3 losers, who are now set for a windfall of A$215,000 — a massive 19% more than last year.
In an interview, Tennis Australia Chief Craig Tiley confirmed, “We have significantly reduced the winners' prize money cheques, but players like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams all agreed with spreading the prize money more evenly, providing the up-and-coming players an opportunity to earn more because it has been a difficult year”. He also added that though they have had to dip into their reserves to put the Slam on, they expect to stay afloat once things get going. According to Forbes, the Slam added A$387.7 million to Victoria's economy in 2020.
All top seeds in the Men's and Women's singles draws have managed to stave off their Round 1 challengers. Novak Djokovic defeated Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. Rafael Nadal overcame his injury to take down Laslo Đere 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. On the Women's side, Serena Williams made quick work of Laura Siegemund ousting her 6-1, 6-1. Women's top seed Ash Barty recorded a double bagel win over Danka Kovinić.