Qualifying at a Grand Slam always brings a few spectators into the precinct of a tournament, nowhere near the main event but always enough to create a decent atmosphere within the grounds.
Wimbledon and Roland Garros both charge an admission fee for spectators, but the US and Australian Opens have both remained free, until now.
Last week Tennis Australia announced that the 2023 Australian Open would be a three week bonanza, with fans now being charged to attend the three rounds of qualifying.
It will be $10 for adults and $5 for children to get into Melbourne Park across the week commencing on January 9.
While the price is minimal, this is a genuinely terrible mistake by Tennis Australia because what was once a tennis purist’s delight is now a cash cow.
In recent years, the conversation and fanfare surrounding the qualifying event at any Grand Slam have increased drastically with narratives forming across both the men’s and women’s competitions.
The crowds supporting Australians at Melbourne Park have been sensational, with atmospheres and emotions rivalling that of the early stages of the tournament.
Who could forget Liam Broady last year or Alex Bolt in 2017? Magnificent stories that captured the hearts of tennis fans across the globe.
Would you like to know the admission fee? $0.
This situation is not about the money, it is about another barrier of entry into the sport that is not needed in this country.
Players like Grand Slam finalist Eugenie Bouchard and former major semi finalist Coco Vandeweghe will be taking part in qualifying, in what would normally give unrivalled access to some of the world’s most notable and marketable athletes to aspiring kids and general fans.
But now if kids want to make their way to the precinct they must pay, when normally they could ride a bike or join a group of friends in attending what already was a three-week extravaganza.
This new spin is quite frankly frustrating, because it is making the purity of qualifying another cash cow in Craig Tiley’s plan to build money reserves in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged sports across the country for the better part of two years.
The lack of honesty about what it really is makes the situation frustrating, because it is quite easy to see that the marketing ploy has been conjured up to generate excitement when it was already there to begin with.
In a world where money talks everywhere, it was refreshing to see tennis fans relish the opportunity to witness some sensational action and enthralling contests for no charge at all, but now unfortunately even that has fallen victim to the big dollar signs.
Covid and its lockdowns has left copious citizens reeling with financial difficulties, with some not yet back on their feet.
The public didn’t need something extra to pay for, and for some that fee might not be affordable at a certain point.
Hopefully this new price has not affected someone’s ability to attend qualifying, an event in which they might attend instead of the actual tournament due to monetary concerns.
This is why it’s not the money, it’s the principle.