Australian Open lifts prize money for “Rafa slam” bid

Melbourne: The 2011 Australian Open will offer a record A$25 million (15.3 million pounds) prize money, up 3.8 percent on the previous year, with the men’s and women’s winners to each pocket A$2.2 million.

Rafa Nadal’s bid for a non-calendar grand slam will headline the tennis calendar’s first grand slam of the season and the Spaniard would stand to earn A$1.1 million as runner-up if he falls short by a match, Tennis Australia said in a release on Tuesday.

“It is a mouth-watering proposition, and he certainly will be one of the favourites,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.

“But I think Rafa himself would be the first to point out that at the moment it is all just speculation and there are a lot of tough opponents, including the reigning champion Roger Federer, standing between him and that place in history.”

The tournament’s other major focus will be whether 13-time grand slam winner Serena Williams can defend her title after a long layoff from a foot injury.

The American had surgery after she cut her foot on broken glass at a restaurant in July and was forced to pull out of hardcourt tournaments in Tokyo last week and Beijing this week after not being ready to compete.

The grand slam’s organisers also announced a 10-year extension of their rights deal with Walt Disney Co’s ESPN to broadcast the tennis in North and South America.

Tickets for the January 17-30 Australian Open go on sale on Wednesday.

Bureau Report

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