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Wimbledon Prize Purse Raised Again

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Wimbledon will be the richest Grand Slam in history, with both the male and female champion earning 700,000 pounds (US$1.4 million; euro1.03 million).

The only Grand Slam tournament on grass will offer 11,282,710 pounds (US$22,572,011; euro16,620,275) in all, an increase of 8.7 percent, organizers said Tuesday.

Wimbledon announced on Feb. 22 that it would pay men and women the same from the opening round to the final for the first time since it began paying players in 1968.

``No tennis tournament has ever offered higher prize money than Wimbledon in 2007,'' All England Club chairman Tim Phillips said.

Roger Federer earned 655,000 pounds (US$1.17 million; euro946,381) in winning last year's tournament, while Amelie Mauresmo took home 625,000 pounds (US$1.11 million; euro903,036).

The weak dollar has helped Wimbledon become the richest Grand Slam.

Federer and Serena Williams each earned 1.28 million Australian dollars (US$1.05 million; euro777,000) for winning this year's Australian Open. The French Open running from May 27-June 10 will give champions euro1 million (US$1.36 million).

Federer and Maria Sharapova, the U.S. Open champions, won US$1.2 million (euro811,000) in 2006. The U.S. Open plans to announce its prize money in July.

Wimbledon, which runs from June 25 to July 8, also announced it would use instant replay for the first time, subject to final testing in May. The Hawk-Eye technology, used at the U.S. Open for the first time last year and also at this year's Australian Open, will be on Centre Court and court No. 1 only. The French Open will not use instant replays.

Large screens to show the replays will be erected in the two courts.

The exact protocol of Wimbledon's Hawk-Eye system has yet to be established, but unlimited challenges were unlikely. The U.S. and Australian Opens both offer a player two challenges on line calls per set.

``There are slightly different circumstances on a grass surface,'' Wimbledon chief executive Ian Ritchie said. ``So we're looking at a bit of an alternative, maybe a bit of an extension.''

The existing cyclops technology will be moved to courts two, 14 and 18. Cyclops, which has been used at Wimbledon since 1980, is a system of infrared beams which helps determine if serves are in or out.

``We do feel it's a good thing to introduce,'' said Ritchie, who said the final testing was more to do with the calibration of the cameras on a grass court rather than its accuracy. ``We're all confident there won't be any issues arising in May and we'll be using it come the championships.''

Because of plans to install a retractable roof over Centre Court, the main venue has no roof this year. It will be the first time in the building's 85-year history that no roof will be on Centre Court. Three extra rows of bleachers on three sides have also been built, with 500 extra seats to be used at this year's tournament.

Next year, there will be a non-moveable roof, with a 65-by-70-meter hydraulic roof to be completed by 2009, and the capacity increasing to 15,000 from 13,800. The seats will also be wider.

``People are getting bigger,'' Phillips said.

Wimbledon also announced plans for a new Court No. 2, to be built in time for 2009.

Dubbed ``the graveyard of champions,'' the intimate show court will be moved from its current spot near Centre Court to the back of the grounds, where the current Court No. 13 is. A new Court No. 3 will be built on that site, with Courts 4-11 realigned to also allow for wider walkways.

Court No. 2, which has claimed both Serena and Venus Williams, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Ilie Natase among others, currently has a capacity of 2,192, plus 770 standing. The new court will seat 4,000.
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