Players at Wimbledon could be docked their first-round prize money if they pull out mid-match knowing they were carrying an injury.
Last year, there were eight retirements — seven in the first-round of the men’s singles — leading to accusations the players were pocketing £35,000 despite knowing they were unlikely to see the match out.
But new rules announced today warned that “any player who competes in the first-round main draw singles and retires or performs below professional standards, may be subject to a fine of up to first-round prize money”.
Organisers have said that if an injured player withdraws onsite after midday on the Thursday before the Championships they will receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money.
The move will be welcomed by frustrated fans as last year two matches in a row on Centre Court ended in retirement. Martin Klizan, with heavy strapping around his calf, lasted only 40 minutes against Novak Djokovic while Alexandr Dolgopolov went only marginally longer before an ankle issue ended his clash with Roger Federer.
“A player should not go on court if he knows he should not finish,” said Federer last year. “The question is, did they truly believe they were going to finish? If they did I think it’s okay that they walk on court. Otherwise, I feel they should give up the spot”.
It was also announced today, the total prize pot in 2018 is £34million, an increase of 7.6 per cent from last year, and treble the sum at the Championships a decade ago.
There is a double-digit increase in the prize money in the first four rounds of the singles draws and qualifying, with a 10 per cent rise for the men’s, ladies’ and mixed doubles.
The winners of the singles titles will earn £2.25m — a marginal rise from the £2.2m awarded to last year’s champions, Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza.
Officials say that the new roof on No1 Court remains on course to be completed for the 2019 event but admitted it had been “more complex in both size and scale than the installation of the Centre Court roof”. The court will have a test event on Sunday May 19 next year, described as “a special exhibition of live tennis in front of capacity crowd”, the proceeds of which will go to the Wimbledon Foundation.
The event, which will feature singles matches for men and women as well as mixed doubles is aimed at testing out the new roof and air management system. Ticket availability will be announced in due course.
The ladies qualifying tournament will be extended from 96 players to 128 to put it in line with the men’s. Ground capacity for qualifying will rise from 1,100 last year to 1,500, each ticket costing £10, the proceeds of which also go to the Wimbledon Foundation.