Australian Open 2017: Record prize money targets early rounds

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (right) beat Andy Murray to win his sixth Australian title in January

The Australian Open has increased prize money to record levels for 2017, with the focus on those players beaten in the early rounds of the tournament.

The total prize fund is up 14% on 2016 at 50m Australian dollars (£29.4m), with the singles champions to each receive A$3.7m (£2.2m).

First-round losers will earn A$50,000 (£29,360), up 39%, while prize money across qualifying is up 39%.

The increase is part of a package of measures to try to tackle corruption.

The first Grand Slam tournament of 2017 gets under way in Melbourne on 16 January, with Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber defending the singles titles.

It was during last year's Australian Open that a BBC and BuzzFeed News investigation uncovered suspected illegal betting, with 16 players reportedly flagged over suspicious matches.

The lower levels of tennis are considered more vulnerable to betting-related corruption as players struggle to make a living through prize money.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: "It was especially important for us to increase the compensation for players in the early rounds and qualifying and this year we have made some real gains.

"Our aim is to shift the break-even point for professional players, to ensure that tennis is a viable career option for the best male and female athletes in the world."

The 2017 tournament will see the return to Grand Slam action of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams after injury-lay offs.

However, world number 11 Petra Kvitova will be absent after she was the victim of a knife attack on Tuesday, two-time champion Victoria Azarenka gave birth to a son in December, while Juan Martin del Potro is a major doubt after several years of injury problems.

"There's a fortnight to the Australia Open and I'm unlikely to make that objective," said the Argentine.

"We're looking at what the priority is. If tennis waited for me for two years, Australia can wait for me for one more."

Juan Martin del Potro
Del Potro visited Boca Juniors' La Bombanera stadium with a Davis Cup replica trophy on Monday

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