Pictured: The new roof planned for Wimbledon's Court No.1

n a pretty, well-mowed corner of south-west London, it seems austerity doesn’t exist.

For Wimbledon is increasing prize money by a staggering 40 per cent – making it the biggest winnings pot in the history of professional tennis.

At this year’s competition, the All England Club will hand out a total of £22.6million – an increase of £6.5million – but the move has provoked an angry backlash from tennis fans.

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Wimbledon's Number One Court will have a retractable roof by 2019 so play can continue during Britain's notoriously variable summers. Russia's Maria Sharapova pictured in action on the court

Iconic: An artist's impression of the Number One Court at Wimbledon with a new retractable roof

Changes: Centre Court had a new roof put on it in 2009, but this image shows what both would look like with one in place to battle Britain's often poor summers


WIMBLEDON - £22.6m with £1.6m for singles champions

US OPEN - £22m with prize money for singles champions to be confirmed

AUSTRALIAN OPEN - £20.3m with £1.63m for singles champions

FRENCH OPEN - £18.8m with £1.28m for singles champions

Winners of the men’s and ladies’ singles titles this year will take home £1.6million, up from the £1.15million which Roger Federer and Serena Williams netted last year.

And the players who lose in the early rounds will enjoy even bigger pay increases, earning 62 per cent more than last year.

Players who lose in the first round of the singles will be paid £23,500, which is more than some school teachers earn in a year.

After the announcement was made yesterday, chairman of the All England Club Philip Brook was asked to justify the increase at a time when the UK economy is in the doldrums.

‘The economic climate is difficult, I would accept that,’ he said.

What it looks like now: Wimbledon expects to complete the roof over No 1 Court (right) in time for The Championships 2019

Play on: The roof over Centre Court has been regarded as a success since its installation in 2009

VIDEO Expansion plans ahead for Wimbledon as prize pot soars

Big expansion plans for Wimbledon as prize pot soars to £22.6m

‘But I think we have to accept that the world that we live in is a world where we are competing with other international tennis events.

‘It is not just about the top players, it is about making the sport attractive to the next generation of talent.’

The new investment was partly in response to players demanding a larger percentage of the competition’s revenue – usually around 20 per cent.

Mr Brook said: ‘We wanted to demonstrate to all the players how much they are appreciated by Wimbledon.

Pay rise: Both the Gentlemen's and Ladies' Singles champions will each receive £1.6m this year, pictured here are the 2012 victors Roger Federer and Serena Williams

'We have made these increases because we want to make them, not because we had to.’ But critics took to social networking site Twitter to condemn the extravagant increases.

Linda MacDonald said it was ‘excessive’, while Tim Whittall wrote: ‘What is wrong with us? There are people starving and homeless!’

It was also announced that a retractable roof will built over Court One by 2019, following the success of Centre Court’s roof installed in 2009, and the grounds will be redeveloped in the theme of ‘tennis in an English country garden’.

Mr Brook refused to comment on how much the renovations would cost, but insisted ‘fans won’t pay the price’.

This year's Championships take place from June 24-July 7.
VIDEO See the Wimbledon expansion master plan

Introducing the Wimbledon master plan


By Mike Dickson, Sportsmail's tennis correspondent

Those who regard Wimbledon as slightly staid or old fashioned have always profoundly misunderstood the All England Club, never more so than when it comes to this announcement of jaw dropping prize money increases and yet more redevelopment of the grounds.

'We cannot afford to stand still,' was the mantra of Chairman Philip Brook as he unveiled the most significant prize pot rises in the history of tennis, along with long-term development plans that include the building of a new roof on No 1 Court.

It is all about maintaining the tournament’s position as, arguably, the most successful annual event in any sport and certainly in tennis – something that does not come without a talent for innovation and surprise.

There was an air of democracy around the 40% rise in the player payment fund, with the massive jump of 60%-plus for early round losers the latest statement from the four Grand Slams that they care about the rank-and-file performers who fill out the draw.

And it was emphasised that it will not be the ordinary fans through the gate who foot the bill, with a pledge to keep ticket prices steady and the money coming from increased commercial activity and aspects like the huge new television deal announced with China.

Yet it is a tricky time to announce bumper paydays for young athletes in the current economic climate and the reward-for-failure argument has a ring of truth to it as well, especially in the women’s game. With Wimbledon now wedded to the idea of equal prize money the high proportion of one-sided matches on the women’s side in the first week will see the vanquished banking £23,500 for their trouble. That will prove more contentious than the champions getting £1.6m, which they will hardly notice.

And the scramble for wildcards among British hopefuls will be more intense than ever, and probably subject of more rancour. Small wonder when the minimum a player would receive for gaining entry into the singles and doubles is now £27,375.

What is effectively happening is that Wimbledon and the other three Slams are propping up the finances of the players ranked below 60 who, with some justification, have complained that the more regular tour events are not sufficiently rewarding them, given the costs of travelling on a global circuit.

It also represents another victory for the Association of Tennis Professionals who, with their Player Council led by the hugely influential Roger Federer, have secured unprecedented pay rises for their constituents. Their female counterparts have quietly ridden in their slipstream on the matter, and must be absolutely ecstatic.

The long-term plans for the grounds look superb, with much consideration given to the overall spectator experience, which already rates very highly. The truth is that No 1 Court, which is only sixteen years old, has never quite generated the atmosphere that was hoped and a substantial redesign, and the facility for wet weather play, will be a welcome development if it is done with flair.

No, there is not much standing still down at SW19, where the recession appears a distant rumour.