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Australian Open ups prize money for early losers

Australian Open ups prize money for early losers

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Early-round losers at the Australian Open will receive a significant pay raise as part of what tournament organizers say is the biggest purse in tennis history.

Responding to player demands for a bigger slice of the prize money, Tennis Australia moved to avert a potential boycott of the opening Grand Slam of the year.

The 2013 singles champions at Melbourne Park in January each will collect 2.43 million in Australian dollars ($2.55 million) from a record total purse of nearly AU$31 million. First-round losers will receive AU$27,600, a 32.7 percent increase from 2012, second-round losers will get AU$45,500 (up 36.6 percent) and third-round losers will receive AU$71,000 (up 30 percent).

Prize money for the fourth round, quarterfinals and semifinals has gone up by an average of more than 14 percent.

Prize money for the three rounds of qualifying also has increased, by almost 15 percent, while first-round doubles prize money has increased more than 30 percent.

Players' council representatives Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had pushed for a more equitable distribution of prize money, saying it was vital for the lower-ranked players who make up the 128-entry Grand Slam draws to receive extra prize money.

``Our motivation is to make a major contribution toward helping ensure professional tennis players can make a decent living,'' Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement Thursday.

``As we have said in the past, it is a real issue and needs to be urgently addressed throughout the sport. That is why the biggest increases are in the earlier rounds, qualifying and doubles which in effect rewards a lot of the lower-ranked players for their achievements which, by the way, should not be undersold.

``To just reach the main draw of a Slam, a professional tennis player has to be among the top 100 in what is one of, if not the most, competitive professional sport in the world. At the same time, we also still want to continue to recognize the incredible drawing power and contribution of the top players.''

The Australian Open will be held from Jan. 14-27.

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NBA, G League to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects

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USA Today Sports

NBA, G League to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects

The G League will begin offering "select contracts" worth $125,000 next year to elite prospects who are not yet eligible for the NBA, a move that could slightly lessen the handful of one-and-done players at the college level.

There is no determination yet on how players will be identified as potential targets for such a contract. The G League said Thursday that it is establishing a working group to develop that process and other criteria, and that there will be no cap on how many players could be signed to a select deal.

"We recognize that talent assessment is inherently subjective," G League President Malcolm Turner said. "But as the name would suggest, this working group will be charged with identifying the relevant pool of players who may be offered a select contract. It's not as if any player can unilaterally raise their hand and dictate that they will join the league playing under a select contract."

Players will be eligible to sign the select deal if they turn 18 by Sept. 15 prior to the season that they would spend in the G League. The move follows recommendations released earlier this year by the Commission on College Basketball, a group that was chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was tasked with reforming the college game.

The commission report said "elite high school players with NBA prospects ... should not be `forced' to attend college."

Turner said the move addresses that concern.

"We've tried to answer the basketball community's call for an alternative in a timely and thoughtful way," Turner said.

Players who receive the select contracts all will become eligible for the NBA draft the following year. Their rights would not be retained by an NBA club beforehand, no matter which G League affiliate they wind up with.

Under current rules, players are not eligible to enter the NBA draft until they are a year removed from high school -- though that is expected to change through an amendment to the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players in time for the 2022 draft.

The G League has allowed 18-year-old players in the past, but never before under any elite designation.

While it is apparent there are still details to be ironed out -- such as how these select players will be allocated to G League teams -- NCAA President Mark Emmert said he appreciates the G League's plan.

"Obtaining a college education continues to provide unmatched preparation for success in life for the majority of student-athletes and remains an excellent path to professional sports for many," Emmert said. "However, this change provides another option for those who would prefer not to attend college but want to directly pursue professional basketball."

And this could put the G League and some big-name NCAA programs on a collision course.

Players can sign letters of intent to play for a Division I school in the 2019-20 season starting next month, and there's nothing to suggest that some of the top recruits -- whether they've signed or not -- won't consider going to the G League for $125,000 instead of college next season. That means the potential is there for some awkward situations if a player signs with a school, and later backs out of that commitment to turn pro.

The G League's working group is expected to be formed and functioning within the next couple of weeks, but it's unclear when the process of players contacting the league and vice versa will begin. It is expected that there will be an advisory council to tell athletes who contact the G League about their potential eligibility for a select deal, much like how college football players can ask about their potential NFL draft status.

"There might be some collision points, but our role and what we intend to do is educate and inform the marketplace," Turner said. "We're also not going to be targeting those who have already made their decisions."

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James called the NCAA model "corrupt" and said he would suggest to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver a plan to expand the G League and turn it into more of a farm system with an eye on truly preparing young talent for the NBA.

"As the NBA, we have to figure out a way that we can shore up our farm league," James said in February, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers. "And if kids feel like they don't want to be a part of that NCAA program, then we have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time."

Through the first two nights of this NBA season, 35 rookies -- most of them having left college early -- made their debuts. Of the 35, only five scored more than 10 points in their first game.

 

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Stanley Cup champions in the house for Wizards home opener

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@MonSportsNet

Stanley Cup champions in the house for Wizards home opener

It was a full D.C. family affair Thursday night inside Capital One Arena for the Washington Wizards' home opener against the Miami Heat. 

Several Washington Capitals were in attendance on their night off just 24 hours removed from an overtime-thrilling win against the Rangers, 4-3. 

Andre Burakovsky, who buried the game-winner for the Caps Wednesday night, was courtside with teammate Devante Smith-Pelly. Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey and Dmitrij Jaskin were posted up together in a different row. 

It's not all that often that basketball and hockey communities intersect (or get along), but that's certainly not the case in D.C. 

Now, if the reigning Stanley Cup champions can rub off some magic on the Wizards, we really could be referring to this city as the "District of Champions." 

 

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