Australian Open Enhancements (Tennis Week article)


Hall Of Fame
Australian Open Enhancements
By Tennis Week

Rod Laver is getting a face lift, new arms, reinforced legs and and a stronger back. The legendary Grand Slam champion isn't undergoing extensive elective surgery, but the Australian Open's Rod Laver Arena is undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover in time for the start of the 2006 Melbourne major.

The 2006 Australian Open will be contested January 16-29th at Melbourne Park.

Tennis Australia staged the official launch for the 2006 Australian Open and announced several enhancements to the Melbourne Park site. The most significant improvement is the replacement and upgrade of all 15,000 seats in Rod Laver Arena. The new seats should provide spectators with greater comfort and space. Rod Laver Arena operators, Melbourne & Olympic Parks Trust have invested about $2.5 million to refurbish the Australian Open's primary arena, which is also used for concerts.

A new Australian Open Champions walkway providing direct pedestrian access from the city of Melbourne to Melbourne Park will be lined with large light box images of former Australian Open champions in action welcoming visitors to the tournament site.

Tennis Australia officials also announced construction of an indoor building players will use for practice and stretching as well as a refurbished locker room and enhanced media room.

"All seats will be fully changed. There will be a new media room," Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee said. "They're into it already. They will be finished by early December. The capacity will be largely the same."

Players will compete for a record prize money of about $14.6 million ($19.3 million Australian dollars). Sunday evening on the middle weekend will see the introduction of a new night session. The prime-time Sunday night men's singles final will return. Last year, Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the first prime-time men's final in Grand Slam history.

Adding to the entertainment for visitors will be some of Australia’s top bands performing on stage in Garden Square in the break between the day and night sessions.

"There is still a genuine buzz around after the success of our Centenary tournament which exceeded all expectations," McNamee said. "The upgraded facilities at this world class venue, and new City Entrance, take spectator access and comfort to new levels."

Five-time Australian champion Daphne Akhurst will be posthumously honored on Australia Day with membership of the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. The women's championship trophy is named after her.

Safin is the defending men's champion and Serena Williams is the defending women's champion. Tickets for the 2006 Australian Open will go on sale tomorrow. For more information, please visit

Related Story: Australian Open Retains Traditional Time Slot