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By Erik Gudris

Australian Open announces increase in prize money for 2013 (October 2, 2012) -- Though still months away, organizers for the Australian Open staged a pre-launch event at Melbourne Park to announce several major changes including a record prize money increase.

Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood made the announcement that the tournament would increase its total prize purse to AUD $30 million total, a $4 million dollar increase from last year making it the most ever offered in the event's history.

“We are proud to announce this major increase in prize money. We have led the world in prize money for these incredible athletes and we want to ensure that the Australian Open continues to make a major contribution to the financial wellbeing of professional tennis players," Wood said alluding to the recent comments by several ATP Tour players that they would boycott Melbourne unless significant changes were made to prize money.

The breakdown of prize money distribution won't be finalized until Tennis Australia discusses it with the players, but the majority of the increase is expected to boost earnings for those who lose in the early rounds.

Reaction from the rest of the sport was mostly positive with ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewitt saying in a statement, "We welcome the increase in prize money for the 2013 Australian Open and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis Australia to recognise the role of the players in the success of the tournament."

Sergiy Stakhovsky, one of the most vocal players on tour about the issue of prize money for lower ranked players said on his Twitter account, "I think good news came from players favourite GS down&under."

Nadal and Agassi Set to Return to AO

Tournament director Craig Tiley when discussing the players field for 2013 revealed a text message he received from Rafael Nadal who told Tiley he planned to make Melbourne his first event in January despite the Spanish star's ongoing rehab for a knee injury.

Former champion Andre Agassi is scheduled to return and take part in a Legends doubles event on finals weekend while Judy Dalton, an Australian tennis player and member of the "Original 9" that helped start the modern WTA, will be inducted into the event's Hall of Fame.

The launch event also announced updates regarding the ongoing upgrades at Melbourne Park including the ongoing construction of a roof on Margaret Court Arena along with the news that Hawk-Eye will now be available during matches on Courts 2 and 3 next year.

Throughout the near two hour presentation, a debate on whether Roger Federer or Rod Laver was the greatest player of all time was conducted that included the opinions of tennis fans taking part on social media.


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