The two singles champions at this year’s U.S. Open will earn 35% less than in 2019, the last time the Grand Slam tennis tournament allowed spectators, while prize money for qualifying and the first three rounds of the main draw will rise as part of an overall increase.
A year after banning fans entirely because of the coronavirus pandemic and lowering prize money due to lost revenue, the U.S. Tennis Association announced Monday that it will be boosting total player compensation to a record $57.5 million, slightly more than the $57.2 million in 2019. The figure was $53.4 million in 2020.
The title winners in singles each will be paid $2.5 million, down from $3 million last year and $3.85 million two years ago. It is the lowest amount for the top prize at Flushing Meadows since 2012, when the singles champs each received $1.9 million. In addition to the champions, the prize money for the runner-ups is being reduced from $1.5 million from 2020 to $1.25 million in 2021.
In 2020, U.S. Open qualifying was called off amid the pandemic. That part of this year’s event starts Tuesday — unlike for the main tournament, no spectators will be permitted.
Other examples of increases in singles: First-round prize money goes to $75,000, a bump of 23% from $61,000 in 2020 and of 29% from $58,000 in 2019; second-round payouts go to $115,000 from $100,000 in 2020 and 2019; and third-round payouts go to $180,000 from $163,000 in 2020 and 2019.
Total prize money is going up for each competition, the USTA said: singles, doubles, mixed doubles and wheelchair tennis.
“We determined our round-by-round prize money allocations by engaging in an open dialogue with the players and the management of both tours,” tournament director Stacey Allaster said in a statement issued by the USTA. “We applaud their collective leadership in directing the 2021 U.S. Open prize money to benefit the maximum number of players.
Novak Djokovic will be bidding to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969 and eyeing a men’s-record 21st major singles championship. Naomi Osaka is the defending women’s champion as she seeks a fifth Grand Slam title.
Teenage phenom Coco Gauff who became the youngest player to reach the U.S. Open third round since Anna Kournikova's magical run to the round of 16 in 1996, will be playing in her third straight home Grand Slam championships. Gauff now 17, made her debut at the Flushing Meadows in 2019, as a 15-year-old sensation.
The U.S. Open main draw will be held Thursday August 26, and the championship actions will begin on August 30, 2021.
Lamin Drammeh is a multiple award winning Gambian journalist and former Sports editor, The Point Newspaper