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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 09:15 GMT
Wimbledon pays equal prize money
Amelie Mauresmo celebrates her 2006 success
Mauresmo earned 30,000 less than the men's champion in 2006
The Wimbledon Championships will offer women and men equal prize money for the first time at this year's tournament.

The announcement by the All England Club brings the tournament into line with other Grand Slams following criticism from officials and players.

Wimbledon joins the United States and Australia in paying equal money across the board, from the champions down to the first-round losers in all events.

The French Open offers the same cheque only to the champions.

Roger Federer, the 2006 men's champion, earned 655,000 while Amelie Mauresmo took home 625,000 for winning the women's title.

The All England Club had previously defended the difference by saying that women had best-of-three-set matches while the men had best-of-five contests.

Good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon

All England Club chairman Tim Phillips

On Thursday, Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, announced that the championship committee had decided "that the time is right to bring this subject to a logical conclusion and eliminate the difference".

"We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognises the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon," said Phillips.

"We hope it will also encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon."

Phillips stated that the cost to the club would be 600,000 and that the decision taken on Wednesday night was unanimous.

Triple Wimbledon champion Venus Williams expressed her delight at the news, saying: "The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today.

This decision will only strengthen the bond between women players and one of the world's great sporting events

Maria Sharapova

"I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognises the value of women's tennis.

"The 2007 Championships will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players."

Another former champion Maria Sharapova said: "Wimbledon has always been a leader in so many ways in the world of tennis. This decision will only strengthen the bond between women players and one of the world's great sporting events."

Three-time men's Wimbledon champion John McEnroe also backed the decision.

"I think when you've got men and women playing at the same tournament, it is ludicrous to have a difference in pay," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Women's tennis is the leader in women's sports. Equal prize money is a no-brainer

Billie Jean King

"It would be setting an example to the rest of society in general to have equal prize money.

"There's probably no other sport, and very few professions in this world, where a woman can earn as much as a man."

Fellow American Billie Jean King, one of the leading campaigners in the move for equality, said: "Women's tennis is the leader in women's sports. Equal prize money is a no-brainer."

Peter Fleming, with whom McEnroe won four Wimbledon doubles titles and three US Opens, told BBC Five Live: "The difference last year was so small - it was a symbolic gesture for the last couple of years - but finally the club have realised it's not worth the effort to maintain it."

Fleming said he hoped that any male players angry at the decision would see the light.

606: DEBATE
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"They'll grow up at some point," he said.

Last year Prime Minister Tony Blair and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell joined the Lawn Tennis Association, the governing body of British tennis, and the Women's Tennis Association, the rulers of the women's game worldwide, in calling for an end to the inequality.

Larry Scott, the WTA's chief executive, praised the decision and urged France to copy Wimbledon.

"I'm hoping this really helps convince them that they need to go the whole way," Scott said.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo said: "It's great that they did it and now the French Open is going to struggle staying back."

Prize money levels for this year's Wimbledon will be announced in late April.



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