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Prize-money increase quells tennis player strike threat

By Paul Newman

The threat of a strike by players at next year's Australian Open appears to have been averted by the tournament's decision to increase next year's prize-money by 15 per cent to a record A$30m (about £19.2m).

Andy Murray said here yesterday that the general view among players was that Tennis Australia had responded well to complaints that the competitors' share of the revenues generated by all four of the Grand Slam tournaments was too small.

Murray, who was given a free passage into the third round of the Shanghai Masters after Florian Mayer withdrew from their scheduled meeting yesterday with a rib injury, said: "From our side, it's definitely going in the right direction. All the conversations we've had with [the Australian Open] have been fairly positive.

"They've really been the first ones to step up. I think for the players it's important to remember the amount that they've invested in the facilities there, as well. It's not just always the prize-money."

He added: "I never viewed striking at the Australian Open as a real option. From all the players I've spoken to so far, everyone's been very happy with the increases in the prize-money and their plan over the next few years as well."

Where Australia leads, the other Grand Slam tournaments are likely to follow. A delegation from Wimbledon, with Tim Henman among their number, has also been here to talk to the players. Most of the players are as concerned about the way that money is distributed at the Grand Slam events as they are about the size of the overall pot. The consensus is that there should be more prize-money for those knocked out early in tournaments, because the lower-ranked players are less well rewarded in tennis than they are in some comparable sports, most notably golf.

Murray thinks that tournaments on the main Association of Tennis Professionals tour also need to increase their prize-money. "The Grand Slams aren't where a guy ranked between 50 and 100 necessarily makes the majority of their money for the year. That's in the ATP tournaments. So we can't look at the Grand Slams and blame them if a guy ranked 100 in the world isn't making as much as we would like in comparison to a sport like golf. It's the tournaments throughout the year where that needs to improve."

Mayer's injury means Murray will play his first match today against Alexandr Dolgopolov, the world No 20. The Ukrainian, has lost all three of his previous meetings with the world No 3, most recently in Brisbane at the start of this year.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the top two seeds, both reached the third round with comfortable, straight-sets victories. Federer beat Lu Yen-Hsun 6-3, 7-5, while Djokovic defeated Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2.

Federer has been playing amid tightened security following a death threat posted on a website before the tournament. "I felt fine," the world No 1 said. "There was maybe one quick thought. I saw one of the bodyguards outside of the court. I thought: 'Still around, obviously.' Once the match started, I never thought about it again."

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