Google Down the Line!: THE LOW DOWN: Is the Australian Open in danger of disappearing?

Monday, October 6, 2008

THE LOW DOWN: Is the Australian Open in danger of disappearing?

Tennis Australia is worried about their Grand Slam.

According to The Independent, Tennis Australia believe their Slam lacks the same "lustre", facilites, and corporate involvement as the other three majors and could cause them to lose it. But that's not the only reason:

The source added that Tennis Australia were "dead worried" about losing their slam, one of the reasons being that it does not have a unique surface. Both the US and Australian Opens are played on hard court, while Wimbledon and Roland Garros are played on grass and clay respectively.

Despite the concern, there are no plans to change the surface – it was only relaid this year – or move the date of the tournament in light of arguments that such a big event is held too early in the season. Authorities want to keep the January fortnight because it coincides with local school holidays and the finals take place on Australia Day weekend.
Tennis Australia has called in HOK Sport, a London-based architecture agency responsible for Wimbledon's forthcoming Centre Court retractable roof and London's 2012 Olympic stadium, to help with revamping the Australian Open's facilities including better transportation to and from Melbourne Park and the possibility of tearing down and rebuilding Rod Laver Arena which may look "out of date" next to Wimby's new retractable roof.

Rod Sheard of HOK Sport was quoted as saying:
The Victorian government has recognised that the tennis facilities at Melbourne need to be updated to keep up with the other slams. We have been commissioned alongside [Australian architect] Cox to look at the site and prepare a master plan. The authorities are pretty open-minded on what we recommend, and we're looking at things like crowd flows, corporate facilities, relocating the entrance and improving links to other sporting facilities nearby.
I agree the Aussie Open's current surface isn't unique but the biggest reason for its identity crisis is the timing. We're force fed major tennis before we're even ready - there's no real build up to the Slam, no "season", to get fans excited about the year's first major, especially the casual fan. Plus, the ballers have just come off a (very) short break and aren't usually playing their best stuff yet. If they're not fully engaged, how can we be?

It would be in everyone's best interest to give some breathing room at the start of the year. Will it happen? Who knows.

(image via Getty)


  1. Hey Rich. The Aussie's been having trouble for at least 30 years now, but I thought it was making a bit of a resurgence in the '90s. Anyway, it definitely seems to be lacking a little now. It's also weird because like you said, not many of the ballers are really playing their best: Look at how many one-Slam-final wonders come out of there.

    I know Rebound Ace tore up many a player's ankle, but it was a unique surface. Maybe they shouldn't have gotten rid of it?

  2. I really loved the rebound ace surface. It was unique like you said and it was an equalizer in every sense of the word. But the numerous ankle injuries every year was worrisome so I get that they needed to find some other surface.

    But what could be another surface that could work - indoor carpet or clay? half grass/clay??

    One more point: with China really pushing for more presence on both tours, it wouldn't surprise me if Tennis Australia is feeling pressure from them and worried that the Chinese would want to host the Grand Slam for Asia/Pacific. For some reason, I keep thinking I've heard rumblings of this idea somewhere...

  3. I'm old school. I don't want to watch the Chinese Open. I want to watch the Aussie, and dig their crazy fans.

    How about if they cover the new courts in oil? It would be kinda like the French, what with all the sliding, and who wouldn't want to watch Ana or Rafa covered in oil? I bet the balls would take some wicked bounces, too.

  4. While I agree that the Aussie Open needs a few upgrades, I really hope it doesn't turn into the US Open jr. I hope they do it right. Reading that they want to upgrade "corporte facilities" doesn't seem too promising. I can't imagine seeing Laver arena with empty seats reserved for the corporate people who don't bother to show up like at Ashe stadium.

    Personally, I prefer the Aussie to the US--where tennis seems to take a back seat to all the hoopla surrounding the tournament. In conclusion, oil Rafa up. Uh, I mean go Aussie Open!

  5. natch, personally, the beijing olympic tennis was more exciting to me than the Australian Open, so I wouldn't mind having the other grandslam in Asia. There is a similar surface in Asia called "shell courts", it's a bit like clay courts except it's made from crushed shells, plus it is recognized by the ITF.

  6. i agree with narik here, definitely in need of a few upgrades and much better scheduling and better build-up to the tournament (it needs something like the sassy pre-tournament player-profile shindigs of the french, and the once-upon-a-time stuff of wimbledon... ya know, something.)

    but we love coming out to see our tennis people play (aussies can be pretty crazy fans after all) so *fingers crossed!

  7. PS. just not "us open jr."

  8. It's a tough call with increasing corporate involvement - they need $$$ to make these upgrades. unless a private investor wants to funnel in some funds.

    but yes, it can't become us open jr. - that's exactly the point and why it's struggling. where's the history of the tourney, bringing out best aussie's in history, aussie open champs over the years, anon 1:43 was alluding to here. there must be some way to create buzz and buildup for this major.

  9. Force fed major tennis? What real fan actually has to be force fed good tennis, especially a major? Someone has to start the year off and the aussie's definitely have a good time with it. I personally love the Australian, a great antidote to the mid-winter indoor blahs.

  10. I would DIE if the Australian Open was moved elsewhere. It is the only chance I really have of ever seeing Grand Slam tennis. Is it fair to take that away from us?


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