Australian Open lifts prize money for "Rafa slam" bid

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The 2011 Australian Open will offer a record A$25 million ($24.2 million) prize money, up 3.8 percent on the previous year, with the men's and women's winners to each pocket A$2.2 million.

"It is a mouth-watering proposition, and he certainly will be one of the favorites," tournament director Craig Tiley said.

"But I think Rafa himself would be the first to point out that at the moment it is all just speculation and there are a lot of tough opponents, including the reigning champion Roger Federer, standing between him and that place in history."

The American had surgery after she cut her foot on broken glass at a restaurant in July and was forced to pull out of hardcourt tournaments in Tokyo last week and Beijing this week after not being ready to compete.

The grand slam's organizers also announced a 10-year extension of their rights deal with Walt Disney Co's ESPN to broadcast the tennis in North and South America.

Tickets for the January 17-30 Australian Open go on sale on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Frank Pingue)