The Australian Open has gone from an event some of the best in the world didn’t want to attend to the players’ favourite, according to Episode 5 of Sport Insights with Emageo.
As Melbourne again prepares to be gripped by tennis fever over the next few weeks, the new episode of the Podcast explores how those behind the event have transformed the first grand slam of the year.
Emageo Group Managing Director Sam Maxwell said it was the No.1 grand slam from a players’ perspective.
“It’s clearly I would say No.1 in terms of a players’ favourite,” Maxwell said. “They are just so well looked after. They really do go out of their way to accommodate the players.”
Respected journalist Linda Pearce explained how the Australian Open went from the poor relation of the grand slams to one of the most loved.
Pearce, who is about to cover her 32nd Australian Open, said much had changed she since she first first reported on the tournament in 1988.
“It’s incredible to see how the event has matured and developed and expanded into what’s become now less of a tennis tournament and more of a kind of an entertainment event really,” Pearce said.
“I do remember back then it just seemed so small, relative to now.”
“It was way smaller media facilities, way fewer media representatives from all around the world.”
Dubbed the Happy Slam by Swiss superstar Roger Federer, it’s hard to believe the Australian Open was once in danger of losing its place on the grand slam calendar.
“The Australian Open didn’t have a hook,” Pearce explained. “It’s pretty much equal billing these days, and it’s certainly equal prize money.
“The move to the new stadium was the absolute linchpin of what we have today and it’s continued to evolve and improve so they haven’t stood still at all.
“I basically think they realised that they had to probably do more, given the distance, than any other event – to attract the players, to keep the players happy, to be innovative, be welcoming, do all those things.
“And the players’ love for it, I think, has kind of manifested in all sorts of ways. It’s very much a very healthy grand slam event now and I don’t see any real prospect of what we were conditioned to think was a danger, which was the fact that Asia and the Middle East were kind of hovering and waiting to get their claws into it and take it away because it wasn’t up to scratch.”
Pearce said Australian Open organisers had built their reputation on being friendly and inclusive, while also providing entertainment beyond tennis for fans.
“I sometimes wonder if the tennis gets lost in everything else,” she said.
Pearce and Maxwell also provided plenty of tips on attending the event for those heading to Melbourne Park this year.