Players say prize money increase a positive step


Players say prize money increase a positive step

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Coco Vandeweghe earned $29,100 for losing in the first round of the Australian Open, or about $370 for every minute she was on court Monday.

That is nowhere near the record $2.56 million that the eventual men's and women's winners will take home, but she says a roughly one-third increase in prize money for players losing in the first few rounds is a step in the right direction.

The Australian Open didn't just boost the overall purse this year, it also partly compensated players for their travel to the tournament, a financial boon for those without multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals who struggle to make ends meet on tour.

``It's not easy paying your expenses week in, week out, traveling all over the world. If you are top 100 in most other sports, you're making millions. Tennis, that's not quite the case,'' the 99th-ranked Vandeweghe said after her loss to 27th-seeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

Even though she briefly rose to No. 69 in the world and pocketed more than $140,000 in prize money last year, Vandeweghe didn't hesitate when asked whether she broke even financially. ``No chance,'' she said.

Belgian Olivier Rochus, who also lost in the first round, said the $1,000 check for travel expenses was a big surprise. ``I think it's really nice. They really understand it costs a lot of money for us to come here,'' he said.

The Australian Open has taken the lead among Grand Slams in increasing prize money for the last four years, including a $4.2 million hike for this year's edition, making it the richest Grand Slam tournament. The biggest pay raises were for players who lose in the first three rounds.

In an interview with The Associated Press, tournament director Craig Tiley said the initial motivation was to give the Australian Open a point of difference and keep the players interested in coming.

``I wasn't that long ago - I'd say six or seven years ago - the Australian Open was kind of regarded as the fourth cousin amongst the big four,'' he told AP. ``It wasn't that long we weren't attracting the top players - for many years (John) McEnroe missed it, (Jimmy) Connors missed it.''

But more recently, organizers were also faced with the threat of a player strike on the eve of the Australian Open, in part due to player discontent over how prize money was distributed at the major events.

``The boycott discussion, we weren't fearful of it, but we didn't take it lightly,'' Tiley said. ``We also didn't disagree with what the players were saying.''

``We've always had the view that tennis is a sport where if you're top 200 in the world, you should be the best in your profession, should have the opportunity to earn a living, support the cost of a coach, your own travel and be able to put some money away for your next career or some retirement.''

As it stands, he said, only the top 75 to 80 players make enough each year to do this.

``That's what we're trying to address - to bring the pack closer,'' he said. ``If you don't do that, then the best athletes are going to be attracted to the other sports.''

Marcos Baghdatis has had his up-and-down years since making his debut at a major in 2004, reaching a career-high ranking of No. 8, but only three times finishing in the top 20. In 2012, he had a momentous year off the court - he married former women's pro Karolina Sprem in July and their daughter, Zahara, was born in October.

Now ranked 35th and with a growing family to feed, Baghdatis is among those happy to see the prize money go up in the early rounds at the majors. Since losing the 2006 Australian Open final to Roger Federer and making the semifinals at Wimbledon later that year, he hasn't gone further than the quarterfinals at 22 majors. He advanced to the second round in a late five-set win Monday.

``I think it's great for the sport. We'll see more competition coming if the prize money comes up,'' he said ahead of the tournament. ``Because I think a young kid who has no money, if he gets to four Grand Slams in a year he can invest for his future, and I think that's very important.''

The top men's players - in particular, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray - have helped push for better compensation for the lower-ranked players on the ATP tour.

Murray, the reigning U.S. Open champion, has seen both sides of the player compensation debate. As a Grand Slam winner and a permanent fixture in the top four since 2008, he has amassed almost $25 million in prize money. He travels with a team of support people including a conditioning expert and often with coach Ivan Lendl, an eight-time major winner. That all costs money.

His older brother, Jamie Murray, ranked 78th in doubles, made just under $100,000 last year.

While the Australian Open has increased its prize money and incentives for players, Murray thinks there are still major issues to overcome at the lower levels of professional tennis.

``I think, to be honest, the issues with tennis go a lot deeper than the ATP Tour,'' he said. ``The Challenger Tour prize money hasn't changed in years. Futures tournaments, I don't think their prize money has changed the last 20 to 30 years.

``That's what is stopping guys playing tennis early rather than the guys that are on the main tour stopping early. So the problem is not so much with the main tour. It's the smaller events. ``

Russia's Alex Bogomolov Jr., who helped highlight the threat of a strike last year with a late-night tweet, said the increase in compensation in Melbourne is a positive step, but players won't have the power to force changes like this at other tournaments without a union similar to the players' unions in the NBA and NFL.

``For me, the only reason I'm still a little sad is by the time I retire, the revenue split will be 50-50. That's the way it's heading,'' he said after his first-round loss on Monday.

``It's going to take years and years for that to happen. What else can we do? We do our job, we play as hard as we can and we are happy that people come to watch us play,'' he said.


AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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