Novak Djokovic won a record-extending 9th Australian Open title on Sunday, defeating Daniil Medvedev in straight sets. In the process Djokovic increased his Grand Slam tally to 18, while also getting richer by $2.13 million.
However, this figure is roughly $1 million less than the Serb's prize money for winning the title last year. And that is despite the fact that the Australian Open saw a whopping $7 million increase in their prize pool for the 2021 edition.
The sum of $1 million that Novak Djokovic would have otherwise received has instead been distributed amongst the players who lost early in the qualifying and main draws.
Unsurprisingly, this decision was greatly influenced by none other than Novak Djokovic himself. The World No. 1 has been campaigning for a while to reduce the prize money for the later stages of the event and increase the payout for early-round losers.
In the first week of February, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley had commended Novak Djokovic's efforts towards implementing a more even distribution of prize money.
"We have significantly reduced the winners' prize money, but players like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams agreed with spreading the prize money more evenly, providing the up-and-coming players an opportunity to earn more because it has been a difficult year," Tiley had said. "We think it's a great initiative and I have had zero pushback."
It is pertinent to note that Novak Djokovic has not actually donated $1 million from his prize money to the lower-ranked players, as some are claiming on social media. The Serb's contribution to the increased payout for early-round losers is more in the nature of behind-the-scenes work than express donation.
Still, there is no doubt that this is a significant feather in the cap of Novak Djokovic. The likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have never championed the cause of early-round losers despite their immense influence on the sport, while Djokovic has been at the forefront of the campaign for years.
How much did the early-round losers earn due to Novak Djokovic's efforts?
In 2020, the players who lost in the first round of qualifying took home $15,700 (approximately). But this year, they have received $19,322.
Those eliminated in the first round of the main draw in 2020 went home richer by $71,000 (approx). Now, after Novak Djokovic's efforts have borne fruit, first-round losers in 2021 received $77,000.
For the players who failed to make it beyond the second round, an extra $15,000 made way to their kitty at the 2021 Australian Open.