If Novak Djokovic can go all the way at the French Open, not only will he clinch the one Grand Slam title remaining from his collection, but also a record paycheck at Roland Garros to send him crashing through the $100 million barrier in career earnings.
The winner of both the men’s and women’s singles events in Paris will take home a check for 2 million euros ($2.23 million), an increase of 200,000 euros ($223,000) from a year ago, when Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams took home the titles. With Djokovic currently just over $300,000 shy of $100 million, he would comfortably make it into triple figures.
If he does so, he would become the first man or woman to accomplish the feat. Roger Federer, Djokovic’s closest competitor, could have got there first with victory at the French Open, but had to withdraw from the tournament because of a back injury.
But Djokovic, who will take on Belgian Steve Darcis in the second round on Thursday, only needs to reach the semifinals in order to crack $100 million. His quest has been helped by the fact that the French Open has increased its total purse by 14 percent this year. At just over 32 million euros ($35.7 million), it is 4 million euros ($4.5 million) more than 2015, which saw Rafael Nadal lose his grip on a title he has won a record nine times.
The biggest increases this year have been to the mid-rounds of the tournament. Losers in the second and third rounds will pocket a 20 percent more than 12 months ago, while there is a 19 percent hike for fourth round losers and 18 percent boost for those bowing out in the quarterfinals. All other rounds see an increase of 11 percent.
The boost will be some comfort to Mathias Bourgue. The 22-year-old French wild-card, who had never competed at the main draw of a Grand Slam before this week, pushed world No. 2 Andy Murray to five sets before bowing out of the second round on Tuesday.
Despite the increases, the French Open still lags behind in comparison to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. A record $42.3 million was paid out in New York last year and $41.3 million will be competed for at this year’s Wimbledon Championships. And, while the Australian Open, with $31.63 million, sits fourth on the list in terms of total prize money, the tournament, once very much considered the fourth Grand Slam in terms of prestige, now offers a higher prize for the singles’ champions than the French Open.
The French Open’s ability to offer greater financial rewards will not have been helped by seeing expansion plans repeatedly thwarted in recent years. At just 21 acres, the Roland Garros site is by far the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues. As of this year, when building work will be completed at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open, it is also the only Grand Slam not to have at least one court able to be covered by a retractable roof. It means when there is rain, as there was during the first two days of this year’s tournament, there is no play to offer broadcasting providers.