Australian Open prize money boost as Hewitt honoured


Prize money for next year’s Australian Open will rise 10 percent to Aus$44 million ($32 million), organisers said Tuesday while revealing special celebrations are planned to mark Lleyton Hewitt’s final tournament.

Tournament director Craig Tiley also announced a “friendship” agreement with the Shanghai Masters to open up the Grand Slam tournament to the Chinese market, with a new WeChat platform that will have a potential audience of more than 600 million.

Australian Hewitt, 34, has been granted a wildcard entry into the main men’s draw for the January event, which will be his record 20th consecutive Open campaign at Melbourne Park.

Tiley said organisers still had to work out the details of how the tournament would honour the former world number one as he winds down his playing career.

“We want to celebrate the great career Lleyton’s had, but we need to sit down and talk with him because he will also want to focus on doing the best he can at the Open,” Tiley told reporters.

Currently ranked 296, Hewitt’s best result at his home Open is runner-up to Russian Marat Safin in 2005, while he has not made it past the second round in the last three years.

He intends to retire following the tournament and take over Australia’s Davis Cup captaincy.