With just under 50 days till the first tennis ball is bounced and served at the 2023 Australian Open, there is a sense of excitement around. A breath of fresh air, literally, after extensive lockdowns.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, for the first time in almost three years, there will be no density and crowd limits.
While it’s exciting for fans, there is also an exhilarating anticipation for the players. These high performing athletes train day in, day out so that they can perform on the big stage, or more specifically the main tennis courts around the world.
And having spoken to many Tennis players, they love coming down under.
Tennis Australia aims to make the Australian Open bigger and better every year and this year is no exception.
Organisers are hoping to break the record of attendees throughout the event, with an aim of 900,000 spectators across the fortnight.
Last year’s Australian Open was unfortunately marred with controversy.
As Melbourne was coming out of some of the longest lockdowns in the world, and there were strict rules around vaccinations, nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was granted an exemption to come play, despite being unvaccinated for COVID.
This caused an uproar.
Some saw it as preferential treatment. They took to social media to vent their frustration. It led to his visa being cancelled and then a series of appeals by Djokovic’s team and the Federal Immigration Minister at the time, Alex Hawke, led to the Serbian’s deportation.
This took all the limelight away from the lead-up and beginning of the event. However once the tournament commenced, it was business as usual.
Australian Ash Barty played superbly throughout the two weeks, culminating in winning her Grand Slam on home soil. It was an incredible run.
However Aussie hearts were shattered less than two months later, when the 25-year-old decided to step away from the sport and retire. At such a young age and with so much potential, it was a shame to see Barty depart a sport she is so good at.
And while the purist Tennis fans will miss her slice backhand, it’s hard to begrudge the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion from pursuing her passion and interests off the court.
Adored for her positive attitude and good sportsmanship, she reminds me of Pat Rafter. A favourite both on and off the court, this upcoming Australian Open won’t be the same without the Barty party.
After the former world number one’s retirement, Australian tennis fans were crying out for another female to step up and fill the void.
Enter Ajla Tomljanovic. The 29-year-old has stepped up as Australia’s number one women’s tennis player. Tomljanovic has had a remarkable climb up the rankings to 33. A career best to date, she would have climbed further had she been awarded points for reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
And after an incredible 2022, she appears to be Australia’s best chance of winning another Grand Slam in the women’s draw.
After missing last January’s tournament, promising talent Olivia Gadecki will be looking for a big summer on home soil.
Then there’s Priscilla Hon, Ellen Perez and Storm Sanders. And let’s not forget Destanee Aiava who is rebuilding her career after reaching the top 150 as a 17 year old. Aiava recently won the Latrobe City Traralgon International singles title prevailing over compatriot Lizette Cabrera.
Daria Saville is still recovering from an ACL injury she incurred while playing against Naomi Osaka in September. While she will be sorely missed at the Australian Open, Aussie fans can’t wait to have ‘Dasha’ back on court.
Barty isn’t the only star to retire this year. The world of tennis lost several greats of the game including Roger Federer and Serena Williams after both decided to hang up their racquets.
Others who retired this year include Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Andrea Petkovic, Kevin Anderson, Andreas Seppi, Phillip Kohlschreiber, Ivo Karlovic, Gilles Simon and Tommy Robredo. While they may not have necessarily reached the status of Barty, Federer and Williams, to lose such a large group in one year isn’t ideal.
But when one door closes, another opens.
And we saw an exciting crop of young players come through. Players like Casper Ruud, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Taylor Fritz, Jannik Sinner, Frances Tiaofe and Holger Rune just to name a few.
Then there’s American teenage sensation, Ben Shelton who’s had a remarkable couple of months, breaking through into the top 100. Can he continue that form into the first Grand Slam of 2023?
Shelton recently defeated Australian Aleksander Vukic in the final of a Challenger event at the University of Illinois.
Australian Open fans can get excited about the prospect of these young stars strutting their magic on Melbourne’s tennis courts. While Federer’s retired, the future of tennis is still bright.
And while he’s been suffering injury setbacks and welcomed the birth of his first child recently, one cannot write off world number two, Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard showed in January and again in June at the French Open he still has what it takes, winning both Grand Slams.
This upcoming tournament will feature the return of nine-time winner, Novak Djokovic who has had his ban overturned. Alexander Zverev, having not played since snapping ligaments in his ankle at the French Open and has had setbacks since will be hoping to be right to play.
He is scheduled to play in Dubai soon at an exhibition event and then the United Cup here in Australia to obtain some valuable match play.
Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur will lead the Aussie contingent, ranked 22nd and 24th in the world respectively. Then there’s Chris O’Connell (78) who has had a terrific season, Jordan Thompson (83) and Thanasi Kokkinakis (94) all guranteed to play main draw. Jason Kubler at 108 would be a big chance to get a wildcard after his gains this year cutting his ranking in half.
Melbournian Omar Jasika capped off his remarkable return to the pro circuit in 2022 by winning his fifth singles title for the year at Traralgon last weekend.
Jasika now boasts an impressive 70/23 win/loss record in 2022.
He’s most likely going to have to get through qualifying first but Aussie fans will be hoping Jasika can make waves in his home grand slam.
On the women's side, Jaimee Fourlis on the back of an impressive year on tour to become our fourth ranked Australian player will be right in the frame to receive a wildcard.
In doubles Jaimee and Jason Kubler combined well to make the mixed doubles final in a great run as a wildcard pairing.
And let’s not forget the Special K’s (Kyrgios and Kokkinakis) who combined to make it special for Aussies fans everywhere. Can they win back-to-back Australian Opens?
The Australian Open entertainment isn’t just on the court, but off it as well.
Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley said he continually seeks ways to improve the tournament to ensure fans return.
“The whole idea is to continue to grow the event,” he said.
“Tennis provides entertainment and of course there are fans that want to just come and watch that, but we’ve grown on the basis that we have festivalised the whole experience,” Tiley told The Age.
And the Tournament boss announced that ticket pricing will be different this year. This upcoming tournament will be the first time dynamic pricing would be used across the board. This means it will be based on demand, in a similar way to how flights are priced.
“If there’s a high demand for a session, then the price drives the availability and that’s something new that enables us to get to have the event accessible for everyone,” Tiley said.
Ground passes for week one start from $49 and $19 for week two.
Regardless of your age or gender, there’s something for everyone at the Australian Open.
Only a short tram ride from the CBD, Melbourne Park will be a hub of fun and excitement for people of all ages.
As usual there will be heaps of entertainment both on and off the court.
While the stars will be competing for silverware on the Court, you and your friends can be competing in the paddle competition off it.
This January’s festival of Tennis is set to be bigger than ever with more bars, interactive activities and delicious mouth-watering restaurants. And don’t forget the larger sandpit and beach tennis set-up.
To encourage visitors, ticket prices have been lowered to try to make it more affordable.
Children can come in for a whole day for $10. And “if you want to come the second week, a kid pays $15 for seven days,” Tiley said.
Regardless of whether you’re there for the current-day champions, the stars of tomorrow, the legends of the past or you don’t even follow Tennis and just want a nice day out, you’re bound to have an incredible time at Melbourne Park in January.
The 2023 Australian Open kicks off on Monday 16th January and culminates in the men’s final on Sunday 29th January. The AO Qualifiers commence one week earlier on Monday 9 January.