Australian Open boosts prize money, aims to lure China fans
Melbourne: The Australian Open's prize money will swell 10 percent to Aus$36.3 million (US$31.7 million) next year, organisers said Tuesday as they launched the 2015 tournament with plans to attract more fans in Asia.
Winners of both the men's and women's singles Grand Slam final will take home Aus$3.0 million, Tennis Australia said. "We are determined to continually push ourselves to new heights in terms of facilities, service and the overall experience for players and fans," chief executive Craig Tiley said.
Australian Open 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka
Unveiling the refurbished Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, which now has three-retractable roof stadiums -- the most of any Grand Slam venue according to organisers -- officials said they were hoping to engage the rapidly increasing tennis audience in Asia.
"For the past few years we've taken the Australian Open trophies through China and Asia as an exercise to build awareness of the event and the sport," Tennis Australia's commercial director Richard Heaselgrave said.
"We've deliberately narrowed our immediate focus to the major cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen and plan to build strategic opportunities for engagement, both with the growing fan base for tennis in the region, and commercial and corporate partners." In 2014, China registered the highest single rating broadcast of the Australian Open with almost 20 million viewers tuning in to watch Li Na win the women's singles final, Tennis Australia said.
Japanese interest in the sport is also high, following Kei Nishikori's run to the 2014 US Open final; while organisers said 17 percent of all international visitors to the tournament in 2013 were from the Asia-Pacific region.
Part of the plan to grow the tournament's reach involves 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal promoting the Grand Slam in Asia. The Spaniard said he was already focused on returning Down Under for the January event, in which he lost in a four-set final to Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka earlier this year. "It was a very emotional tournament for me this year," he said.
"For me, it is important to win the Australian Open again and to achieve that, I need to continue to work hard, stay healthy and be able to compete." The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, will take place at Melbourne Park from January 19 to February 1.