Wimbledon declines to close prize money gap
LONDON, Apr 25 (Reuters) Wimbledon will remain the only grand slam tennis event not to pay its men's and women's champions equal prize money, organisers said today.
The All England Club announced at a news conference that prize money for this year's men's winner would amount to 655,000 pounds (1.17 million dollars) with the women's champion getting 625,000 pounds.
The figures represent a four percent rise from last year.
French Open organisers announced last month that they would pay their men's and women's singles champions the same prize money of 940,000 euros (1.13 million dollars) this year, though they were criticised by the WTA Tour for not applying the equality throughout the draw.
The other two grand slams, the Australian and U.S. Opens, have long offered equal money to men and women players.
Six-times Wimbledon winner Billie Jean King last week urged Wimbledon organisers to end the pay disparity but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
All England chairman Tim Phillips said the total prize money for this year's championships, which run from June 26 to July 9, would be 10.38 million pounds, up 2.9 per cent on last year.
''No tournament paid higher prize money than Wimbledon in 2005 and so far in 2006, and this increase further recognises the talent and commitment needed by top tennis players nowadays,'' Phillips said.
The men's doubles winners would each earn 220,690 pounds, a rise of one percent, with the women getting 205,280. Mixed doubles prizes remain unchanged at 90,000 pounds.
Officials played down fears that the worst drought in 100 years in parts of southeast England could affect the championships and said they were having talks with the local water company.
The club was reducing its own consumption by not watering clay or hard courts and cutting down on watering flowerbeds and washing vehicles and had contingency plans to maintain water supplies, officials said in a statement.
After this year's championships, the Centre Court roof will be removed and one side of the stands demolished as part of plans unveiled in 1993 to improve the facilities at the ground.
Officials said the Centre Court would have no roof at next year's championships but a new, retractable roof would be completed by 2009. New stands would increase the court's capacity from 13,800 to 15,000.
REUTERS PM BST1835