Aussie Open holds 'constructive' money talks

Tennis officials Thursday said they had held constructive talks with players agitating for a greater share of revenue at the Australian Open, a day after Andy Murray said a strike was never a real option.

Last week, organisers of the season's opening major boosted prize money to a record Aus$30 million (US$31 million) as they responded to a push by players to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam revenues.

The move followed reports that players were mulling a boycott of the 2013 Australian Open to press their case, with one issue at stake the pay of lower-ranked players, who often exit in the first round.

Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said he met with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and players at the Shanghai Masters about a fairer distribution of prize money, and talks were productive.

"Tennis Australia has had some very constructive and positive discussions with the ATP and the player council," he said in a statement.

"We feel we have been well received and are buoyant about the future.

"We have talked about our long-term plans for player compensation, including further significant increases, and the feedback we have received from the ATP and the players has been positive."

ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett was also upbeat following the talks with Tennis Australia, saying they were "encouraging and positive".

"Tennis Australia deserves credit for the way they have recognised the significant input the players have in the success of the tournament," he said.

"I'm delighted the players have given their full support to the ATP leadership during this process with the Australian Open, as well as backing our decision to pursue this issue through constructive dialogue.

"I am confident that the ATP and our players will remain committed to the ongoing discussions with the other Grand Slam tournaments."

While this year players pocketed Aus$20,800 for a first-round defeat at the Australian Open, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.

Without a high profile, they are also unable to score lucrative sponsorship deals that could help sustain their careers.

Player council president Roger Federer on Sunday cautiously welcomed the move to boost prize money but said he was not sure it was significant enough to quell player unrest over the long-running row.

However, on Wednesday Murray said he never viewed a strike as a real option, adding "the Australian Open has stepped up really well".

While the prize money break-up is yet to be revealed, Australian Open director Craig Tiley last week said increases would be weighted towards those who lose in the early rounds.

More talks are scheduled to take place before a final decision is made, Wood said.

"We have plans for further discussions regarding distribution and will also be having talks with the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) to get their feedback," he said.

"Our intention has always been to make a major contribution toward improving the compensation of professional tennis players to make their profession more viable throughout their ranks. The attitude of the players has been very pleasing."

The Australian Open is played at Melbourne Park in January.

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