• Tennis

Queen's Club upgraded to Tour 500 level

ESPN staff
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Andy Murray has won Queen's three times © Getty Images
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The grass-court game and British tennis has been given a huge boost by the change of grading of the Queen's Club tournament for 2015 to a 500 ranking point event.

The AEGON Championships, usually the precursor to Wimbledon, has benefited from the decision to move the marquee grand slam back by one week from 2015 onwards - a decision which lengthens the grass court season.

Queen's and the Gary Weber Open in Halle, Germany, which has also been promoted from the Tour 250 tier, will now take place two weeks after Roland Garros from 2015, with a tournament in Birmingham or Eastbourne set to become the new warm-up for Wimbledon.

The implication for the players is huge, as the prize money and benefits from Queen's and Halle is set to rise about $30 million ($18.6 million), up from its present $17 million. Tour 500 events represent the second tier of regular ATP tournaments, behind the Masters 1000 series - which is one below a Grand Slam.

Queen's tournament director Chris Kermode said: "The Aegon Championships has always been a world-class event and this move further strengthens the status of the tournament with increased ranking points and prize money at an exciting time for grass-court tennis, with The Championships, Wimbledon expanding the season in 2015."

The ATP also announced on Friday that prize money for Tour 500 events would increase by an average of 10% annually over the next five years - further emphasising the commercial clout behind the men's game.

Laurent Delanney, chief executive of ATP Europe, said: "We are delighted to have reached this outcome which sees significant prize money increases for the players, as well as the addition of two very strong tournaments in Queen's and Halle to the ATP World Tour 500 category from 2015.

"The decision not only strengthens the 500's category as a whole but also enhances the grass-court season leading into Wimbledon. It is a terrific outcome for our players, tournaments and the sport as a whole."

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