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Tennis

Wimbledon payout hike targets early-round losers

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- The All England Club has increased the prize money at this year's Wimbledon tennis championship by 10 percent, with a majority of the cash directed to help lower-ranked players.

Although the men's and women's singles champions will each receive a record $1.85 million, most of the $2.4 million increase to the overall pot will go to players who lose in qualifying or the early rounds.

"Wimbledon continues to be successful and we are delighted to share that increase with the players," All England Club Chairman Philip Brook said. "At the same time, we appreciate the need to help players meet the rising costs associated with professional tennis."

Those losing before the fourth round of the singles' competitions will receive an increase of at least 13 percent.

There will be a total $26 million in prize money.

The increase for the lower-ranked players, some of whom struggle to cover the costs of training, traveling and competing at major tournaments, was requested by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in a meeting with championship officials in Indian Wells, Calif.

"It doesn't happen with many sports and credit to them for doing it," Brook said. "It shows that with the top four players you have people of quality."

Brook denied that any player had threatened to pull out of the championship in an effort to force the increase.

Prize money for all rounds increased at the same rate until 2006, when the annual raise for the singles' champions began to dramatically outstrip that for early losers.

Other changes announced Tuesday include playing 30 minutes earlier on courts 2-19 in the hope that an 11:30 a.m. start cuts down on the number of matches held over by the changeable British weather.

A new tournament website can show live action, although it will be restricted to one game per set per match every hour to avoid competition with broadcasters ESPN and the BBC.

The BBC has agreed to continue coverage of the event through 2017, taking its partnership with the tournament to 90 years.

Brook said the All England Club is also formulating the details of a new plan for ground development and championship organization through 2020. That could include a roof on No. 1 Court similar to that on Centre Court.

"That doesn't mean we have decided to do it," Brook said. "It means we will consider it."

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