Wimbledon has announced a mind boggling 40 per cent increase to this summer's prize fund which will share out £22.6million. Ralph Ellis raises his hat to the negotiating skills of the players - and fancies Andy Murray's chances of hitting the jackpot. . .
"You can almost hear Roger Federer's shop steward speech now: 'Some of our members are facing massive hardship – do you not know how much the cost of private jets and helicopters has risen in the last 12 months?'"
It's tough being a top tennis player. One glance at the Forbes Rich List of the world's leading sportsmen will tell you that.
Roger Federer is the only one who sneaks into the top ten, in fifth place on a measly £34.5million a year. His biggest rival Rafael Nadal had to struggle by on just £21.8million. And after that there are only three more tennis stars who make it into the 100 strong chart.
Poor Novak Djovokic, for instance, held every Grand Slam title during the 12 months for which the most recent Forbes statistics were gathered yet had to struggle by on £50,000 a week less than Wayne Rooney was earning for finishing second in the Premier League. Fernando Torres collected nearly £13million for not scoring goals at Chelsea; beaten Wimbledon finalist Andy Murray never even made it onto the list at all.
Presumably Federer and the other stars went armed with those figures when they sat down to negotiate this year's Wimbledon prize money. The Swiss maestro is leader of the Association of Tennis Professionals' player council - you can almost hear his shop steward speech now: "Some of our members are facing massive hardship - do you not know how much the cost of private jets and helicopters has risen in the last 12 months?"
The arguments have clearly worked, though. Wimbledon's two singles champions this year will walk away with £1.6million each in prize money, an increase of £450,000 from last year. The runner-up will get £800,000, and the two beaten semi-finalists £400,000 each.
Clearly Federer did wave the rich list at them, and point out how far tennis is lagging behind baseball, basketball, golf and American Football in the pay scales. If it got any worse they could end up rubbing alongside poor old Sachin Tendulkar who didn't make more than £12.2m a year. Why else would All England Club chairman Philip Brook justify all this with the argument that they need to "make the game attractive to the next generation of players".
That would explain why it is the first round losers who are the real winners. Any of the British contingent lucky enough to get given a wild card will pick up a guaranteed £23,500, a rise of 62% on 2012, even if they get wiped out 6-0 6-0 6-0. I'm wondering if I can hire the ATP to renegotiate my fees from Betfair (editor's note: don't even think about trying).
The reality of course is that the one thing that would encourage the next generation of players would be better use of the vast amount of money Wimbledon generates to improve coaching and indoor facilities for kids to be able to play the game. And it wouldn't hurt if Murray produces another inspiring performance but goes one better than last year's defeat to Federer.
He is currently between [3.9] and [4.5] to win Wimbledon this summer, which after an Olympic Gold Medal and his US Open triumph is a decent price - even if it won't get you on the Forbes rich list.