There is a reason the Australian Open is called “the Happy Slam”. It might not always be obvious for those of us who have to stay up all night to watch matches, or wish to travel to the tournament but can’t due to the immense cost of going Down Under. But it is, really, the Happy Slam, in more ways than one.
The Innovative Slam
Innovative is an understatement to describe what the tournament organisation has done over the last few years to make the first Grand Slam of the season a must (and the best) for players, media, and fans alike. They well know the majority of us are from time zones very far from theirs, and they ensure that despite this difference, everyone can have a very good Australian Open experience.
Every tennis lover thanks them for the Vault, which provides many of the great matches that were played on their courts throughout the years. Furthermore, tennis fans who cannot be on location are forever grateful for this year’s initiative of showing some qualifications matches live, and not only in Australia: worldwide. They are also, without a doubt, the best Slam when it comes to showing Junior matches.
On top of that, the Australian Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to have not one, but two roofed courts, which is a blessing for the players when it rains or when the heat is too high for outdoors play.
The Australian Open was also the first Grand Slam to increase its prize money (AUD$26M) in 2012, paving the way for the other three tournaments of its category, which they all ended up doing, especially for losses in the early rounds, a great bonus for the lower-ranked players, usually the most penalised of all.
Even more innovations for 2013
Early on Tuesday morning (or late on Monday night, depending on your time zone), the organisation of the Australian Open made several announcements regarding the 2013 edition of the tournament. Needless to say that these new innovations prove, once more, that their reputation of accommodation is not overly done.
Pioneers for prize money, once again
After the threat of an event boycott by some of the ATP players, the Australian Open did not play deaf and listened to their complaints and requests, which will benefit all players (ATP and WTA combined) taking part in the event.
Just like they did in prevision of the 2012 event, the Australian Open and its organisation have decided to increase the total prize money for 2013 to AUD$30M, a AUD$4M boost compared to last year and, yes, another historical high in tennis.
What remains to be seen is how exactly the distribution will be made, and Tournament Director Craig Tiley and others of the organisation of the tournament will travel to Shanghai to discuss it with the players over the weekend. However, for Tiley, there is not much doubt as to whom their focus will be on, as far as the distribution is concerned:
“Our focus is to support the players in the earlier rounds, because we believe that we should be able to contribute to helping players make tennis an ongoing and viable career.”
The will of the Australian Open organisation to discuss with the players as far as the distribution of the prize money is concerned is also a big step ahead and one that is a model as to how such decisions should be taken. After all, the players know best what their needs are as far as prize money is concerned.
The ATP also welcomed the news with contentment, as its Executive Chairman and President, Brad Drewett, declared via release:
“We welcome the increase in prize money for the 2013 Australian Open and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis Australia to recognise the role of the players in the success of the tournament. We also look forward with confidence to continuing these successful discussions with a view to a longer-term understanding.”
Once again, the Australian Open is the pioneer of the move.
More Hawk-Eye courts, more practice courts, better fan experience
On top of an increase of prize money, the Australian Open also announced several other measures that will, for sure, greatly please the players.
The first one is the installation of the Hawk-Eye system on Show Courts 2 and 3, which is something that doesn’t need further explanation, except how useful it will be to have two more courts with Hawk-Eye at the tournament.
Another great measure is the National Tennis Centre, of which the construction is ahead of time, and which will provide eight new clay courts, indubitably useful for the players who will head to Davis Cup afterwards, as well as more practice courts.
For the fans, a new elevated viewing deck will be installed above the practice courts, permitting them to watch the players practice and warm up.
You can see the list of the novelties for the Australian Open 2013 here.
With all these innovations, the Australian Open not only puts more pressure on the other Slams to equal it, it also shows why it is, and will remain, the Happy Slam… and that it should also be known as the Innovative Slam.
We might only be in October, but all those new measures make me look forward to January a little…