Novak Djokovic won the recently concluded Australian Open a record 9th time, while Osaka won her 4th Grand Slam title and her second Australian Open title. It was a dominant victory for both the champions, with the spoils being a cool $2.13M home. But this number is almost $1M less than the previous year.
What makes this even more impressive is that the Australian Open saw a $7M increment in the prize pool for the 2021 edition. Where did all the extra money go? And why did the increment in the prize pool still lead to a dip in the champions’ earnings?
The answers can be traced back to the first week of February when Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said this:
“We have significantly reduced the winners’ prize money, but players like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams 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. We think it’s a great initiative and I have had zero pushback.”
So this has meant the participants have seen a significant boost in their earnings compared to 2020. This is true irrespective of the round in which the player was knocked out. For example, players who got knocked out in Round 1 of the Australian Open earned $77,750, up 11.1% from $70,000 in 2020.
Similarly, players who got knocked out in Round 2 earned $116,625, up 17.2% from $99,500 in 2020. Meanwhile, the tournament winners earned $2.138M this year, down 33.3% from $3.205M in 2020. Similarly, the runners-up won $1.166M, down 27.4% from $1.503M in 2020.
In essence, players exiting in Round 1 to 4 saw an increment in their earnings, compared to 2020. Conversely, players who crossed the quarterfinals hurdle saw a decrement in their paychecks, with the quarterfinalists seeing no change in their revenue.
This is a big win for the Tennis community and for Djokovic, particularly with the Serbian ace doing what greats like Federer, Nadal and Murray could, but never took the initiative to do. Djokovic has been campaigning for fairer payouts for years now, and the combination of Covid-19 and increasing hardships for players and organizers has finally made his voice heard.