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Wimbledon to pay equal prize money

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LONDON, England -- Men and women will receive equal prize money at Wimbledon this year for the first time in the history of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.

The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, announced on Thursday that it would fall into line with the U.S. Open and Australian Open in paying equal prize money across all events.

The French Open paid the men's and women's champions the same for the first time last year, although the overall prize fund remained bigger for the men.

"In summary, we take the view that this is good for tennis, good for the women players and good for Wimbledon," said All England Club chairman Tim Phillips.

The move follows a long-standing campaign for equality, with former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe one of a number of prominent players who called for the change.

Last year, men's champion Roger Federer received £655,000 ($1.170 million) and women's winner Amelie Mauresmo pocketed £625,000 ($1.117 million)

"It's definitely a victory for women in general. I said it was a matter of time, and it was," Mauresmo said in Dubai.

"I think most of the people agreed it's not a matter of how long we (women) spend on the court. The men are always going to play longer because they play best of five sets. It's just a matter of being equal."

Finally relented

Wimbledon had long argued that the men deserved an extra increment because they played five-set matches against three-setters for the women, but has finally relented.

"When Wimbledon pioneered Open tennis in 1968, the ladies singles champion Billie Jean King got £750 and Rod Laver got £2,000," Phillips said.

"So the ladies champion got 37.5 percent of the money that the men's champion got. By stages that has moved up until in 2006 when Mauresmo won, the precise relativity was 95.4 percent. So the champion was only getting 4.6 percent less.

"We believe... it was time to bring this progression to a close and equalize fully.

"Obviously it is good news for the women players... and we also believe it will serve as positive encouragement for women in sport in general but in tennis in particular."

The move won immediate approval from top women's players of present and past.

"The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today," three-time champion Venus Williams said.

"I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognizes the value of women's tennis. The 2007 Championships will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players."

Former six-time singles champion Billie Jean King, a pioneer for women's sports agreed.

"This news has been a long time coming," she said. "Wimbledon is one of the most respected events in all of sports and now with women and men paid on an equal scale, it demonstrates to the rest of the world that this is the right thing to do for the sport, the tournament and the world."


Roger Federer (left) received $53,000 more for his 2006 victory than Amelie Mauresmo.


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