The Championships is splashing the cash to strengthen its bond with players.

The oldest of the four Grand Slams has turned itself into the richest tennis tournament ever to be staged by offering the largest purse in the professional circuit, of £22.6 million (around ( 188 crore).

According to Philip Brook, the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and The Championships, the reason is rather simple: “For the players, it is a deep appreciation of the demanding nature of professional tennis and the top-quality entertainment they bring, while for The Championships, it is about giving all our visitors the finest stage on which to enjoy Wimbledon."

The increase is a result of the bargaining and negotiating power of the players, especially the men—meetings between players and the chairman have remained a constant and date back to 2011, when Brook met Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, president of the ATP Player Council, in March to discuss their revenue and scheduling issues.

When announcing a hike in the 2012 prize money, Brook had said, “What we heard was genuine concerns from top players and tour management that this was an issue. We have listened to those concerns and we have acted in what we are announcing here today."

Regardless of whether the changes are being made because they want to rather than because they have no choice, the tournament’s needs seem to be identical to the players’, including installing another retractable roof to prevent any weather delays that may affect the tight schedules that participants have been complaining about.

The market-defying amount of £22.6 million is a £6.5 million increase from 2012 and a 40% rise in prize money that makes it the largest single escalation in the history of the sport. In comparison, the richest PGA event in golf, The Players Championship, offers a total purse of less than $10 million (around 58 crore) and the Indian Premier League, the richest in cricket, presents a total sum of less than $5 million.

Johnny Perkins, a spokesperson for The Championships, says the figure was established based on “a judgement call, a balance between setting a standard and affordability".

However, the flip side of the coin is that in tennis, only match wins translate into income. Chris Evert, a former World No.1 and 18-time major winner, summed it up on Twitter: “1st round prize money of $35,000, if that happens in all Grand Slams, players ranked around 100 can afford full-time coaches!"

In tennis majors, each announcement seems to have a knock-on effect on the other. The Australian Open was the first to start the increase in its prize money in 2012, responding to players’ demands for a greater share of the profits, even threats of a boycott. Tennis stars wanted 25% of the revenue and are yet to achieve that at any of the majors, with the Australian Open coming closest at 23%. Demands from players, with the top male tennis stars like Federer leading the way, included increase in money for early-round losers, suggesting unity from top to bottom, which makes the threat of a players’ strike a real fear.

India’s Somdev Devvarman, ranked 135, believes the majors can afford to further raise the stakes. “I’m happy about it and I’m definitely grateful, but I feel like there’s a lot of room for improvement," says Devvarman, who lost in the second round of the French Open to Federer and did not qualify for Wimbledon.

The Indian’s wish may come true sooner rather than later, for the Australian Open, French Open and even Wimbledon have promised further increases in the years to come, while the US Open has vowed a $50 million purse in four years’ time.

In the which-tourney-will-be-boycotted-first fight, Wimbledon’s prize money is now approximately a million dollars more than any other Grand Slam tournament, with the US Open second at $33.6 million; the Australian Open adds up to $31 million and the French Open has a total of $28.7 million. With the big four constantly competing for prestige and raising the stakes, players have won before even lifting their racquets.

Peter Tramacchi, a former player on the professional circuit and now a coach and commentator, says: “It all boils down to the Player Council that has the representation of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who are part of the committee. Yes, the senior players have played a role in pushing for a better deal. It is an improvement, a step towards growth. In 20 years’ time, we will look back and say this was the time when everyone got a little piece of the pie."

The shortest Wimbledon final match took place in 1881 and lasted merely 36 minutes. That same result in 1968 would have earned William Renshaw £2,000, that’s about £55 per minute; today, he would make more than £44,000 per minute for his effort, adding up to a total £1.6 million.

“It is a plan to secure Wimbledon’s position as the world’s leading tennis event and one of the world’s top sports events," says Perkins. The move has come despite the fact that there are no new sponsors or change in sponsor policy since last year’s contest—Wimbledon remains the only tournament that doesn’t allow on-court advertising. “For us, it’s about showing leadership and making a statement about what Wimbledon considers important," Perkins adds. “The main income generators are television rights, merchandising, official supplier partnerships and ticket sales."

The Championships has a new multi-tiered media partnership with China that will see a live broadcast on CCTV5. This change alone will raise the eyeball count from 85 million to 250 million starting 2013.

While the figures are astonishing, the mere rise in ka-ching shouldn’t come as a surprise. It isn’t a new tradition for the All England Club to raise the stakes—in 2009, there was an increase of 13.3% compared with the previous year while, in 2011, the Championships offered a 6.4% raise to 2010. In 2012, there was a 10% increase to help lower-ranked players complaining of inadequate pay.

While winners will bag £450,000 more, taking the amount from £1.15 million to £1.6 million, income for players who lose in the first three rounds goes up by more than 60%. Does this raise a concern over lowering the standard of the game by rewarding early exits?

Leander Paes, winner of seven Grand Slam doubles titles and a junior champion at Wimbledon in 1990, thinks not. “The all-round spread of wealth is a good thing. It goes to show that the sport is prospering and attracting viewership. It doesn’t affect the standard of the game because no one is going to want to lose in the first round and take the money, that’s really silly. With each win still comes more ATP points, more money and players want to win matches," he says.

This also means that women participating at SW19 have come a long way since 2007, when the board decided to go along with equal prize money for both genders. It was the last major to do so.

The attempt to further bond with players doesn’t stop at simply forking out the money. The tournament established in 1877 also announced that from 2015, the dates of Wimbledon will move back by a week—it will start on 29 June that year. This will create a three-week gap between Roland Garros and the English tournament, allowing players more time to acclimatize to the change from clay to grass.

“This is the only tournament that allows you to have information 12 months in advance as to when you are playing, and it is great for a change," Djokovic had said on television in 2012 before his first-round match. “In tennis, we don’t have that many cases when we know exactly what time we are playing. It usually just states second, third or after 11."

Jaya Uttamchandani is a sports writer based in Singapore.

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