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With the 112th edition of the Australian Open all wrapped up, it was another sensational tournament with plenty of amazing matches.

Outside the actual tennis part of the tournament, plenty of innovation was introduced by Tennis Australia head honcho, Craig Tiley.

Tiley’s mentality has always been, “a minimum of 50% of things have to change year on year at the AO so that our returning fans continue to be surprised and delighted.”

These factors enticed a record 1,110,657 people through the gates to soak up the atmosphere of the Australian Open, breaking the previous record of 902,312 set in 2023. 

So as the dust settles on another Australian Open, what were the highlights of AO24 and what can be done to elevate it further in 2025?

Innovations at the 2024 AO

15-Day Tournament

The first and most obvious change Craig Tiley made at AO24 was to move to a 15-day tournament, which drew more than a million spectators to a grand slam for the first time ever.

While this was meant to help with scheduling issues, the tournament still ran into problems in the second week, which came to a head on the second Tuesday when Coco Gauf took 3 hours to beat Marta Kostyuk, while Novak Djokovic required almost 4 hours to defeat Taylor Fritz.

Luckily Aryna Sabalenka made light work of Barbora Krejčíková in the night quarter-final match, but scheduling a legend’s match before the Gauf/Kostyuk match only added to the headaches.

Relaxed Fan Entry

Perhaps the one innovation that divided opinion was the relaxed fan entry, which allowed spectators to enter arenas and take their seats between each game, rather than every second game when there is a change of ends. 

Fans loved it but players weren’t always convinced, evidenced by Aussie, Jordan Thompson labelling the Australian Open the “wokest tournament ever.” 

Anyone who attended a Show Court 3 match, however, was treated to a boisterous atmosphere that resembled a soccer match, adding to the excitement levels.

More Shade 

Shade was the name of the game at AO2024, with an increase in shading of over 300%, notably with a giant canopy over Garden Square. 

This was a welcome innovation in what can sometimes be an unbearably hot tournament grounds to roam around. 

As someone with unfortunately fair Anglo-Irish skin, the abundance of shade on offer was very much appreciated.

Courtside Bar

Wrapping around Court 6, Courtside Bar was a hit: two storeys to socialise and watch tennis at close range.

Having attended both as a fan and a media representative, I can confirm the atmosphere was always buzzing but relaxed. 

The highlight for me, however, was having a prime viewing of Court 6, which often featured entertaining doubles matches of slightly lesser-known names than their singles counterparts.

Revamped AO Ballpark

The revamped AO Ballpark ran along Birrarung Marr and was filled with fun activities for young (and older) kids including a water slide, aerial adventure and an entertainment stage. 

Running a kid's tennis day in conjunction with the revamped AO Ballpark, a day before the tournament kicked off, was both smart marketing and a hit for parents and kids, with thousands of happy spectators streaming through the gates.

Honouring Evonne Googlagong Cawley

The staircase ascending towards Margaret Court Arena was decorated to honour the remarkable Evonne Goolagong Cawley, commemorating the 50th anniversary of her inaugural Australian Open singles title. 

Goolagong Cawley’s staircase was then utilised on AO First Nations Day, with a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony and cultural performance to spotlight the rich history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A Night with Novak & Friends

It was a packed stadium for a Night with Novak & Friends, the show's star giving a virtuoso performance across many sporting disciplines. 

While a seemingly odd proposition, the concept worked, with Djokovic’s charm and charisma shining through, his stock having grown in Australia since the frosty reception he received after his unceremonious deportation in 2022.

The Glam Slam + AO Pride Day

Run by the Gay Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA), the Glam Slam was a three-day event for participants of the LGBTQ+ community to participate in both competitive and social competitions.

In conjunction with AO Pride Day, the event drew in guests including former AFL player and coach Danielle Laidley, as well as AFL players Ben Brown (Melbourne), Changkuoth Jiath, and Dylan Moore (Hawthorn) and AFLW players Sarah Perkins and Moana Hope (Hawthorn).

AO Startups

AO Startups was an initiative by Tennis Australia’s innovation program to help startup companies pilot their cutting-edge technology at the AO.

One example is 1080 Motion, a sports technology company that creates user-friendly solutions for digital motorised training in elite sports.

The market-leading company showcased their new, ground-breaking equipment which allowed attendees to hone their performance by putting their speed and strength to the test at AO24.

Changes Planned For 2025

Evonne Goolagong Cawley Day

From 2025, First Nations Day will be known as Evonne Goolagong Cawley Day at the Australian Open. 

Presenting the Daphne Akhurst trophy to women’s singles champion, Aryna Sabalenka, Goolagong Cawley’s tremendous legacy was rewarded with a $100,000 donation to deliver Indigenous programs and continue her outstanding lifelong work.

Women’s Singles Final on Sunday

With the Australia Open starting on Sunday and running for 15 days instead of the usual 14 giving the tournament more wriggle room, swapping the men’s and women’s finals is a real consideration.

The primary reason for this switch would be T.V. viewership. Given that men’s matches can extend over 4 hours into five-set marathons, a Saturday men’s final would entice fans to stay up longer knowing most won’t have to slink into work on Sunday.

A Sunday women’s final would thus make sense from a spectator perspective, as women’s matches usually max out at 2-3 hours over best-of-three sets.

Eliminating Lets on Serve

Regarding ‘lets’ in tennis, Craig Tiley said this after the Australian Open:

“We want to make the game faster and continue to grow its appeal … which is why we look at things like lets … it's a decision for the entire sport.”

While this is a rather cryptic message, what Tiley is referring to involves potentially eliminating let calls on serve. 

This is on the back of the mindboggling statistic that service lets held up this year’s Australian Open by 15 hours.

Other Considerations to “Speed Up The Game”

In addition to eliminating lets, many other changes have been suggested to “speed up the game”, and not just by Tiley, to keep the younger fans engaged with the sport of tennis.

Changes such as skipping the warm-up, re-evaluating the serve clock and, perhaps most drastically, reducing men’s matches to best-of-three instead of five sets have all been discussed and debated.

Whether any of these changes will be made at next year’s Australian Open is questionable at best, but with tennis evolving at a rate of knots, they’re not outside the realm of possibility.


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