It’s always strange when the Australian Open holds its official launch in … October.
There is so much to be decided in the season currently in progress, and already people are looking ahead to next season.
But there already is much to look forward to. As the tournament held an official event both in downtown Melbourne and in Shanghai, where Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal joined in, it’s clear the tournament organizers have been extremely busy since the curtain came down on the 2015 edition.
Here are some of the additions planned for the 2016 event, which takes place Jan. 18-31.
They have already announced that Lleyton Hewitt will get a wild card, so there will be plenty of fanfare surrounding the final tournament of his career.
*A 10 per cent increase in prize money, to $AU 44 million.
*A new Snapchat channel and a WeChat channel in China
*Seven new restaurants, 12 private dining rooms and the opportunity to eat dinner inside Margaret Court Arena during the finals (and presumably watch on big screens while they can hear the cheering right next door).
*Mobile charging stations around the grounds
*Fan viewing access of the players’ arrival area (it’s out in the parking lot).
The biggest thing, for those watching at home, will be massive broadcast capability (although they haven’t indicated how much of this will be available outside Australia).
Tennis Australia will produce every single match for potential broadcast, on all 17 match courts. That means singles, doubles, mixed, juniors, legend and wheelchair, as well as some qualifying matches (which they already do, and which are available worldwide).
As well, the tournament announced it will have coverage across eight practice courts (it’s not clear which courts those will be: there were only three – 16, 17 and 18 – that were solely dedicated to practice, lined up along a long viewing passerelle overhead, one with seating. The other courts served as practice courts when there were no matches being played. And there were other practice courts over in the adjacent national centre that weren’t accessible for fans).
Sounds amazing; we’ll see what the finer details of this will be as it gets closer.