Ash Barty at centre of stunning $71 million Australian Open drama

The world's best tennis players will compete for a record $71 million prize money at next month's Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

The men's and women's singles champions will pocket $4.1 million each after officials announced an increase of 13.6 per cent on last year's purse.

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There will be double digit percentage increases across qualifying and every round of the main draw except the singles finals.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the increases were another important step in continuing to invest in the playing group.

"We have long been committed to improving the pay and conditions for a deeper pool of international tennis players," Tiley said.

Craig Tiley, pictured here speaking to the media at the 2020 Australian Open launch at Melbourne Park.
Craig Tiley speaks to the media during the 2020 Australian Open launch at Melbourne Park. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

"In fact, since AO 2007, prize money has more than tripled from $20 million to the $71 million for 2020 we are announcing today.

"This year, as we do every year, we worked with the tours to establish the weighting for prize money increases round-by-round, and we pushed to reward players competing early in the tournament in both singles and doubles.

"We strongly believe in growing prize money at all levels of the game and we will continue to work with the playing group to create viable career paths in the sport and enable more players to make more money."

Those who lose in the first round of qualifying will take home $20,000, up 33 per cent, while players losing in the first round of the main draw will earn $90,000 in prize money in 2020.

Ash Barty takes centre stage at home slam

As if being Australia's first women's top seed at the Open in 43 years isn't enough pressure, Ash Barty will arrive in Melbourne bidding to become the first world No.1 to hoist the trophy since the great Serena Williams in 2015.

Such is the depth in women's tennis that Simona Halep at the 2018 French Open is the only other top seed apart from Williams in the past 20 grand slams to claim the title.

Not that Australia's casual sports fans will care too much as they yearn for the hugely popular Barty to end the 41-year Open title drought.

"There shouldn't be any assumptions," Barty said last week.

"There are no certainties in sport and I think that is the beauty of sport - anyone can be beaten on any given day and it is about preparing and doing the best you can do on that day.

"I can't wait to play in front of the Aussie crowd again and go out there and give it my all. Regardless of whether I win or I lose, I think the Aussie public love the fact when Aussie players come out and just give it a crack.

Ash Barty, pictured here in action during the 2019 Fed Cup final against France.
Ash Barty in action during the 2019 Fed Cup final. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

"That is what I can promise. I will go out there and give it my best and whatever happens, happens."

After trading her tennis racquet for a well-deserved golfing holidaying with her boyfriend in Queensland, Barty is two weeks into her pre-season.

The 23-year-old will launch her summer campaign at the Brisbane International and coach Craig Tyzzer says Team Barty won't be straying far from their tried-and-tested formula to get the world No.1 peaking for the Open starting on January 20.

"We're not looking at doing anything different. Obviously what we did last year was pretty successful so we're going to stick to similar things," Tyzzer said.

"We're a couple of weeks in now into training and it's probably more than what we did this time last year.

"It's just to get a fair bit of volume in early. She's doing a lot of physical strength training and we'll be looking, by the time we get to the tournaments, at getting more match play and speed work and hopefully feeling ready to play during that four-week period in Australia."

Barty hopes starting 2020 in Brisbane against a raft of former world No.1s and grand slam champions including Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Plisokova and Venus Williams will be the perfect opening to the season.

"Brisbane, historically, has one of the toughest fields across the whole calendar," said the French Open champion.