Tennis-Record prize money for Australian Open winners

SYDNEY Sat Jan 10, 2009 10:06am GMT

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SYDNEY Jan 10 (Reuters) - The global financial crisis has provided an unlikely windfall for the winners and runners-up at this year's Australian Open with organisers deciding to offer a hefty increase in prize money.

Australian Open officials announced on Saturday they were increasing total prize money for the event to A$23.4 million (US$15.7 million), an increase of 12.3 per cent on last year, with the bulk going to the singles finalists.

Both singles champions will receive a record A$2 million while the runners-up will each pocket A$1 million.

"We believe that A$2 million is an appropriate reward for winning the biggest sporting event in the world in January," Tennis Australia Chief Executive Steve Wood said in a statement on Saturday.

Organisers had already announced in October they were lifting the first prize amounts from A$1.37 million to A$1.62 million but decided to raise it again to A$2million to counter the drop in exchange rates.

"We announced a prize money increase in October for the same reason -- to further enhance the status of the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific," Wood said.

"I also said at the time that we would monitor the exchange rate and review the situation closer to the event. We have done that and today's announcement is the end result."

The Australian Open will be held at Melbourne Park from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1.

($1 = 1.488 Australian Dollar)

(Reporting by Julian Linden. Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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