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New Australian Open rules to prevent first-round farce

Melbourne: Players could forfeit their prize money if they retire from first-round singles matches at the Australian Open, under new rules aimed at limiting the early injury withdrawals which have long caused controversy at Grand Slams.

Players will also be able to claim 50 percent of their prize money if they pull out before their first match, an incentive designed to allow a replacement to play instead.

With tens of thousands of dollars at stake just for playing in round one, early injury pull-outs have often caused suspicion at Grand Slams, particularly at last year´s Wimbledon.

Eight players retired from the first round at the All-England Club, including the opponents of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic during the second sets of their matches on Centre Court.

“A player should not go on court if he knows he should not finish,” Federer said at the time, while Djokovic noted his opponent, Martin Klizan, even “had issues walking onto court” with a calf injury.

Now, under new rules by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), any Grand Slam player who withdraws after 1200 local time on the Thursday before the tournament draw will still receive 50 percent of first round prize money.

Their replacement — a ´lucky loser´ from the qualifying tournament — will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money.

But players who do not “perform to the required professional standard” in round one, including by retiring, also risk being fined their prize money, the new rules say.

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