Good news for those 128 players (64 men and 64 women) who will lose in the first round of this year’s French Open. Yes, they will be out of the tournament before it has really got going, but for appearing on the Parisian clay they will each be sent on their way with 18,000 Euros tucked into their racket bags. That’s an increase of 3,000 Euros, or 20 per cent, on last year’s prize-money for losing in the opening round.
Gone are the times, it would seem, when the focus of a grand slam’s prize-money announcement would be on how much the two champions would receive for a fortnight’s work. Now, because of the locker-room militancy, and the vague talk of a strike in Paris, everyone is looking at how much the Average Joe and Joanna of the tour will earn for being bumped out of the tournament on day one, two or three (the first round is spread over three days).
This increase seems fair. As Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky said recently, it would look obscene for first-round losers to get rich for cameo appearances in a tournament, but an increase was needed to keep the journeymen and sub-journeymen happy. So while the overall prize-money pot has increased by seven per cent, to 18.7 million euros, the first-round losers are getting a much bigger raise. The men’s and women’s singles champions? Those prizes have been increased by 4.17 per cent, with each to receive 1.25 million euros. But that was by the by. This announcement was all about those who will fail to win a match in Paris, those who will make little contribution to the narrative of the clay-court championships.
How will Wimbledon reward their first-round losers? Their prize-money announcement will be made inside a fortnight.