In a probable response to their growing fears of losing the Asia/Pacific Grand Slam, Australian Open tournament officials have announced some preliminary changes and improvements for the 2009 season's first major.
Here's a list of what to expect this January:
• new world class player restaurant and player services facility at Melbourne Park
• night final for women
• two extra night sessions on Hisense Arena
• special encore performance of the incredible Wilander - Cash final of 1988
• revamped legends Event
• new and improved Australian Open Series
• two-night concert series featuring four world class performers on finals weekend
• the Australian premiere of internationally acclaimed entertainment precinct Spiegelworld
• an extension of the event’s global reach with new broadcast deals in China and South Africa
• the signing of the world-renowned clothing brand Lacoste
• superb new AO 2009 merchandise range
• exciting array of new ticket options, including exclusive Hisense Arena packages
We have really accelerated our push to make this Grand Slam the best possible experience for all of the players and indeed the fans.It will be interesting to see how the Aussie Open evolves in the coming years. However, I don't see anything on this list exciting and innovative enough to help this major overcome its biggest obstacle: lack of identity. They're just trying to "keep up with the Joneses" at this point.
I'm curious to know what the "Australian Open Series" is all about though - is it similar to the US Open Series' format of a "season" built into the run up to the major tourney? If so, it could help ramp up excitement and buzz drawing in fans (and revenue) but more details are needed here.
If Tennis Australia's reported fears are to be believed then the biggest threat to the Aussie's losing this major, in my opinion, will most likely come from Asia, China specifically. They have the interest, desire, resources, and people to make a full-throttle attempt at taking it. They're sporting profile went out 1000-fold because of the overwhelming success of this summer's Olympics, they've wooed the Masters Cup to Shanghai, and the WTA just opened new digs in Beijing. Moreover, their lady ballers' stature on the Tour has grown in a big way this season because of the huge scalps they've taken along the way.
Sounds like a major commitment to tennis from this point of view.
(image via Getty)