After a year of what were termed as "spirited discussions" with pro tennis players, the U.S. Open, New York's biggest sporting event, announced Wednesday that it will increase its prize money to $33.6 million for the 2013 championship and up to $50 million by 2017. It was $25.5 million last year.
The Open also said that it will go to a standard Grand Slam schedule for men starting in 2015, with the men's semifinals on Friday and the final on Sunday. For the next two years the men's semifinals will be on Saturday and the final on Monday night. The men have complained for years that the Open's schedule of the men's semis on Saturday and final on Sunday was too taxing for players in the modern era.
Did the players threaten to boycott if prize money wasn't increased?
"No. We've over the last year had some spirited discussions but nothing like a threat," said Gordon Smith, the USTA's executive director. "We knew that we would be going up on prize money, as our income increases and frankly the needs of players have increased. It's difficult for lower-ranked players to make a living on the tour, and we realized that this needed to be done for both the players and the Open."
The increased prize fund will not cost ticket holders more or impact the USTA's funding of tennis initiatives across the country, according to officials.
"What we will not do is we will not drastically increase the ticket prices for our fans and spectators to pay for it," said Dave Haggerty, the USTA's CEO. "Certainly, inflationary increases over years may be what you see, but we're not going to put it to the fans."
"It will not affect our community programs at all," Smith said. "Funding of tennis programs is at the core of our mission and this will not affect that."