It's an exciting time of year, because it's all coming together. We send boxes of Australian Open balls to top players who request them and we've already sent them out to Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Lleyton Hewitt, the Bryan brothers and Rafael Nadal. It was encouraging to get the request from Rafa because we know that he’s planning to play.
We’re also getting all our visa requests, which pretty much have to be finalised by the end of this week before players run out of time to get them. A lot of players who had requested visas last year had not done so this year, so we contacted to remind them that the immigration offices would be closing down over the holiday period. In order to be eligible to be in Australia for the Australian Open, they will need to organise that, but we’ll help the players get that done.
Accommodation and accreditation requests are rolling in – the players who have big entourages make early requests to get their people in. Your top players and former champions typically have the bigger accreditation requests … of course if players do well and they’re in the second week, then we sometimes provide them with some additional access when the site is not as crowded. But we have a pretty rigid allotment that each player gets.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll start talking to player agents, as there are still some requests for wildcards that we’re addressing … You’ll generally find that the real excitement hits when the players arrive. Serena Williams made the comment that she can’t wait to get back down here. She was very disappointed she had to miss 2011. She’s a five-time champion, loves the Australian Open, and loves coming down to Melbourne. It's warm, the sun is shining, and I think that's a key thing for players coming from the Northern Hemisphere, that they're coming to summer.
We do a survey, while the players are here, asking them to rank the Grand Slams in terms of their favourites. Just generally, through conversation, the players tell us that they love the AO, it’s their favourite event of the year, they love coming down to Melbourne, they love the sun, they love the way we treat people, they love how we conduct the event.
At the WTA and ATP year-end championships we delivered a welcome gift to the players as a reminder that our tournament is around the corner, and that we’re looking forward to seeing them. We don’t just want them all to show up in January and we start welcoming them – we’ve already been communicating with them, making it seamless. They’ve got their own website they can get all their information on it, and we’ve been very responsible with visas, accommodation, transport and all those things, so they already feel like they’ve been engaged with us and we’re really servicing them. When they do arrive, they get to experience the real deal, and they’ll be ready to compete.