News & media

Keep up to date with all the breaking news, feature articles and previews as we draw closer to Australian Open 2015.

  • link
    Li Na celebrates her Australian Open 2014 victory at Brighton Beach; Getty Images
    Australian Open champion Li Na is set to return to Melbourne in January as a "Friend of the Australian Open".
    | 09 October, 2014

    Li Na set to return for Australian Open 2015

    By ausopen.com

    Australian Open champion Li Na is set to return to Melbourne in January.

    China’s trailblazing Grand Slam champion recently announced her retirement from tennis but is looking forward to returning to Melbourne Park, the scene of her stunning 2014 victory, in a new role as “Friend of the Australian Open“.

    “I’m so happy to be named as a Friend of the Australian Open,” Li said from Shanghai today.

    “I love coming to Melbourne and it has always been my favourite tournament.

    “In China I think we all feel that the Australian Open is the Grand Slam closest to us, the one that is easiest for fans to follow and get excited about. I’m so happy that by winning the Australian Open, it was like I could share my enjoyment of the tournament with the whole of China, and it was a victory my whole country could delight in.

    “Coming back to Melbourne is a little bit like coming home. The fans have supported me throughout my career and I have so many friends there.

    “I’m so happy to be helping my country experience the Australian Open and want to share my experiences with everyone.

    “I can’t wait to come and just enjoy the Australian Open. I’m looking forward to being a tourist – going to my favourite Chinese restaurants, doing some shopping and watching the tennis.”

    Said Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley: “We are delighted to announce a post playing-career partnership with Li Na. She truly is a Friend of the Australian Open and who better to talk about what makes the event so special.

    “Li Na’s journey in tennis has been an inspiration to millions, both in China and around the world. She has been the catalyst for the growth of the sport in her home nation and her charm, warmth and humour has endeared her to fans everywhere.

    “I can’t wait to welcome Li Na back to Melbourne for Australian Open 2015.”

    The announcement was made today at the inaugural Australian Open Business Breakfast in Shanghai, sponsored by Kia and ANZ.

    Li Na joined Australian tennis champion Todd Woodbridge to host the event for Chinese business partners and media.

  • link
    Novak Djokovic signs autographs for fans at Australian Open 2014; Getty Images
    Single session tickets for Australian Open 2015 are now on sale through Ticketek.
    | 07 October, 2014

    Single session tickets now on sale!

    By ausopen.com

    Single session tickets for Australian Open 2015 are now on sale through Ticketek.

    Secure your tickets and get closer to the action than ever before at Melbourne Park from 19 January to 1 February!

    Australian Open multiple session packages are also available through Ticketek.

    > Get tickets for Australian Open 2015

    Single session tickets for all Australian Open Series events – the Brisbane International, Hopman Cup, Apia International Sydney, Hobart International and Adelaide’s World Tennis Challenge – will go on sale from Wednesday 8 October at 9am (local time in all states).

    Multiple session packages for these events will also go on sale at the same time.

    > Get Brisbane International tickets

    > Get Hopman Cup tickets

    > Get Apia International Sydney tickets

    > Get Hobart International tickets

    > Get World Tennis Challenge tickets

    And there is plenty for the youngsters to get excited about – tickets for the biggest kids event of the summer, Kids Tennis Day, are now on sale!

    > Get Kids Tennis Day tickets

  • link
    Margaret Court (L) and Nick Kyrgios stand on the redeveloped Margaret Court Arena as part of the official launch of Australian Open 2015; Fiona Hamilton
    Australian Open 2015 promises to be even more player and fan-friendly, with a host of new initiatives set to make the "Happy Slam" even happier.
    | 07 October, 2014

    Get closer to the action at Australian Open 2015

    By ausopen.com

    Australian Open 2015 promises to be even more player and fan-friendly.

    The Grand Slam players have nicknamed “the Happy Slam” today unveiled a beautifully refurbished Margaret Court Arena to now boast three-retractable roof stadiums, which will ensure play can continue regardless of weather conditions.

    “We are determined to continually push ourselves to new heights in terms of facilities, service and the overall experience for players and fans,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said at today’s official tournament launch.

    “We want to make the Happy Slam even happier.”

    Initiatives for Australian Open 2015 include:

    • a 10 per cent increase in player prize money
    • a winner’s cheque of $3 million
    • 9600 seats in Hisense Arena now available to ground pass holders
    • a special Rafael Nadal charity event at Margaret Court Arena on Wednesday 14 January
    • Margaret Court Arena (7500 seats) ticketed for day and night sessions for the first eight days of the tournament
    • a “People’s Court” to give fans an authentic Australian Open playing experience.

    Tennis Australia President Steve Healy officially welcomed media and special guests to the launch and the first look at the new Margaret Court Arena.

    Living legend Margaret Court made a surprise on-court appearance for the first match in the new arena, pairing up with Victorian Sports Minister Damian Drum for a hit of mixed doubles against teenage tennis sensation Nick Kyrgios and Australian Fed Cup representative Storm Sanders.

    “Thanks to the Victorian Government we have an incredible new tennis facility. Just like the Australian living legend it is named after, this venue is world class and does Australian tennis proud,” Mr Healy said.

    The court already holds special memories for Kyrgios, whose breakthrough 2014 all started at MCA when he pushed the then world No.28 Benoit Paire to a thrilling five sets in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.

    Other initiatives for next January include:

    • a host of top players to be involved in a Kids Tennis Day extravaganza
    • David Hall to be inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame
    • an Australia Day tribute to Margaret Court on Margaret Court Arena
    • Martina Navratilova to return to the event on the 30th anniversary of her win in 1985 to present the women’s trophy
    • more shade, extra seating and better areas for fans to move across the site
    • eleven additional food and beverage outlets at Margaret Court Arena
    • a brand new flagship Australian Open Shop located in the Margaret Court Arena undercroft
    • an upgraded version of the hugely popular Social Shack, with more opportunities to get closer to the players
    • Neale Fraser to be honoured at a special Legends Lunch on the final Saturday
  • link
    Rafael Nadal in action at Australian Open 2014; Getty Images
    Rafael Nadal was today announced a ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ as part of a new concept helping to promote Australia’s Grand Slam on the world stage.
    | 07 October, 2014

    Rafael Nadal named “Friend of the Australian Open”

    By ausopen.com

    Rafael Nadal was today announced a “Friend of the Australian Open” at official Australian Open 2015 launch events in Melbourne and Shanghai.

    “I like to think I’ve always been friendly with the Australian Open, but I’m excited it is now official,” the 2009 men’s singles champion joked.

    “I’m already focused on coming back to the Australian Open in January. It was a very emotional tournament for me this year. 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.

    “It’s a tournament I love so much, where the warm conditions are great and there is a fantastic crowd.

    “There is a great atmosphere, the facilities are amazing and each year they keep improving. It’s the beginning of the year and everyone, the fans, the staff and the volunteers, are all very happy and friendly and in a good mood,” Nadal continued.

    Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley formally named Rafael Nadal a “Friend of the Australian Open” at this morning’s tournament launch at Melbourne Park, staged on the newly redeveloped Margaret Court Arena.

    “Friends of the Australian Open” is a new concept helping to promote Australia’s Grand Slam on the world stage.

    “Without a doubt Rafael Nadal is one of the most exciting sportsmen in the world today,” Tiley said.

    “Rafa exemplifies the values we all work hard to uphold – excellence, humility, teamwork and loyalty – and it’s a coup for us to work with him to promote not just our event, but our wonderful sport, around the world.”

    Nadal will collaborate with Tennis Australia to stage a special charity event on Wednesday 14 January at Margaret Court Arena ahead of Australian Open 2015.

    “I’ve heard that the new roof on Margaret Court Arena is now finished and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. The Australian fans are always fantastic and I hope they’ll come and experience the finished stadium at my special charity event,” said the 14-time Grand Slam champion.

    Tennis Australia Commercial Director Richard Heaselgrave and Australian tennis champion Todd Woodbridge hosted guests of Kia and ANZ at the launch function in Shanghai as part of a new series of events scheduled to be rolled out in Asia over the next 12 months.

    “Events like this show how serious the Australian Open is about doing business and promoting the sport and our events in Asia,” Heaselgrave said.

    “It’s wonderful to have a champion like Rafael Nadal, a true friend of the Australian Open, associated with our event.

    “This is just the beginning of our new focus in the region which will see us grow and create new content for multiple platforms, increasing exposure and opportunities for our partners,” Heaselgrave continued.

  • link
    Fans photograph a giant Australian Open tennis ball in Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall; Fiona Hamilton
    This week the Australian Open is asking Melbourne-based fans to ‘Get Court Up’ in Australian Open 2015 via social media for the chance to win tickets to the tennis.
    | 07 October, 2014

    Get Court Up in Australian Open 2015 for your chance to win

    By ausopen.com

    This week the Australian Open is asking Melbourne-based fans to ‘Get Court Up’ in Australian Open 2015 for the chance to win tickets to the tennis.

    With just 15 weeks until the opening Grand Slam of the 2015 season, Australian Open launch-week festivities are well underway throughout Melbourne’s CBD with giant tennis balls descending on high-profile city locations including Bourke Street Mall, City Square, Federation Square and Southbank Spillway on Tuesday morning, and the Australian Open tram hitting the rails on routes 5, 6, 8, 16 and 72.

    As part of the fun, we’re asking tennis fans to take photographs of the giant tennis balls and tram and share them on their Twitter or Instagram accounts.

    The photos judged the most colourful, creative, artistic and/or entertaining will be awarded pairs of ground passes throughout the week.

    All you have to do to enter the competition is:

    • follow the Australian Open on Twitter or Instagram @AustralianOpen
    • share a selfie or a photo of one of the giant tennis balls that have landed around Melbourne or the Australian Open tram on your Twitter or Instagram account
    • tag your post @AustralianOpen #GetCourtUp

    We’ll be sharing our favourite photos – and awarding prizes – throughout the week, so make sure you’re following @AustralianOpen on Twitter and Instagram to see the creative ways tennis fans Get Court Up in Australian Open 2015.


  • link
    Novak Djokovic with members of the Parkes, NSW community as part of the AO Tennis Blitz during Australian Open 2014; Tennis Australia
    Designed to encourage more Australians to pick up a racquet and have a hit, the AO Tennis Blitz engages schools, clubs and individuals in tennis via a series of events, community showcases and the first ever ‘Win a Wildcard’ competition.
    | 07 October, 2014

    AO Tennis Blitz rolls into Australian Open 2015

    By ausopen.com

    At Australian Open 2014 the world’s top tennis players were thrilled to learn they had been assigned an Aussie town to cheer them along their Grand Slam campaign at Melbourne Park.

    So began the AO Tennis Blitz journey.

    Where else would you find Novak Djokovic aligned with the outback town of Parkes, New South Wales, Andy Murray comparing the heat of Melbourne to his partner town of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, or Maria Sharapova being tweeted by the mayor of Warrnambool in Victoria?

    Designed to encourage more Australians to pick up a racquet and have a hit, the AO Tennis Blitz engages schools, clubs and individuals in tennis via a series of events, community showcases and the first ever ‘Win a Wildcard’ competition.

    A series of Win a Wildcard mixed doubles tournaments will take place around Australia this month, with local winners of A, B and C grades travelling to Melbourne Park in December to play off in the finals.

    The ultimate winning pair will take home the prize of a lifetime – a wildcard into the Australian Open 2015 mixed doubles, including the chance to rub shoulders with all the stars of the sport in the locker rooms, access to the official Kia courtesy cars and player restaurant, and exclusive player perks.

    B and C grade semifinalists will be rewarded with the chance to play their finals matches at Melbourne Park in the second week of the Australian Open.

    Local hopefuls will lace up their tennis shoes this weekend when the Win a Wildcard competition hits Melbourne Park. Mixed doubles pairs will battle it out for their chance at Grand Slam glory on court this Sunday 12 October from 10:30am.

    All AO Tennis Blitz participants will earn points for their local community, with the top 256 points-scoring towns to be assigned their very own Australian Open player to support in January.

    For more information visit tennis.com.au.

  • link
    Fans of China's Na Li watch her in the Australian Open 2014 women's final against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia; Getty Images
    The Grand Slam of Asia Pacific is intensifying its push into the region, with the Australian Open today unveiling a series of initiatives targeting China.
    | 07 October, 2014

    Australian Open steps up China plan

    By ausopen.com

    The Grand Slam of Asia Pacific is intensifying its push into the region.

    The Australian Open today unveiled a series of initiatives targeting China with the aim of further engaging the rapidly increasing tennis audience in Asia’s biggest market.

    The plan includes:

    • An eight-month campaign of events for fans and corporate partners focused on China
    • 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal named a ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ to help promote the tournament in Asia
    • A business breakfast with special guest Li Na for Australian Open partners in Shanghai on Thursday
    • The third annual AO Wildcard Play-off to be held in Shenzhen in November

    “I like to think I’ve always been friendly with the Australian Open, but I’m excited it’s now official,” Nadal joked after his new ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ status was announced.

    “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 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.”

    The initiatives are expected to range from Ballkid trials to corporate Pro-Ams, legends events and activations in China around the Australian Open, including during Janaury.

    China registered the highest single rating broadcast of Australian Open 2014, with nearly 20 million viewers watching Li Na win the women’s singles final. Of the 342 million global viewing audience in 2014, Asia Pacific accounted for 177 million and China alone 107 million.

  • link
    David Hall in action during the Wheelchair Tennis event at the 2004 Athens Paralympics; Getty Images
    Australian wheelchair tennis legend David Hall will be inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame during Australian Open 2015.
    | 07 October, 2014

    David Hall inducted into Australian Tennis Hall of Fame

    By ausopen.com

    Australian wheelchair tennis legend David Hall will be inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame during Australian Open 2015.

    At a special ceremony during the tournament Hall will unveil a bronze bust in his likeness, which will join the statues of other Australian tennis greats in Melbourne Park’s Garden Square.

    It has been a year of accolades for Hall, who last month was also nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his achievements in wheelchair tennis.

    The winner of a staggering nine Australian Opens, eight US Opens and seven British Opens, Hall is one of the most accomplished wheelchair tennis players in history.

    The 44-year-old was today thrilled to learn of his impending induction.

    “It is a wonderful honour, especially considering the rich history Australian tennis has had over the years,” Hall said.

    “To be thought of as being a small part of that history is very humbling for me. Tennis has given me more than I could ever repay and for that I will always be grateful.”

    Born in Sydney, New South Wales, Hall began playing wheelchair tennis at age 19, three years after losing his legs after being hit by a car.

    He went on to enjoy a stellar career, completing six seasons atop the world rankings throughout the 1990s and 2000s and triumphing at least once at every major tournament in the sport, finishing his career with 19 Super Series crowns.

    His success extends to the Paralympic Games; at Sydney in 2000 he won gold in the singles, then claimed silver at Athens in 2004.

    The Australian helped lead his country to four World Team Cups and won two NEC Singles Masters titles, in 2002 and 2004.

    He was also adept in doubles, becoming world No.1 for the first time in 1994 and finishing his career with an impressive 397-89 win-loss record.

    Since retiring in 2006 Hall has dedicated himself to promoting wheelchair tennis. He is the Optus Australia Wheelchair Ambassador and also sits on the selection panel for Australia’s Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability as part of the Newcombe Medal, Australian Tennis Awards.

    He mentors athletes within the New South Wales Wheelchair Tennis program, and in 2010 was appointed a Wheelchair Tennis Ambassador by the International Tennis Federation.

    He later teamed with long-time coach Rich Berman to produce the instructional video Let’s Roll – Learning Wheelchair Tennis with the Pros, which was released in 2013 as a resource for new players to the sport.

    Hall was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2001 and inducted into the New South Wales Hall of Champions in 2009 and Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2010.

    Previous Australian Tennis Hall of Fame inductees:

    2014: Kerry Reid
    2013: Judy Dalton
    2012: Ken Fletcher
    2011: Owen Davidson
    2010: Mark Woodforde, Todd Woodbridge
    2009: Wendy Turnbull
    2008: Pat Rafter
    2007: Mark Edmondson
    2006: Daphne Akhurst
    2005: Australian Open Centenary
    2004: Brian Tobin
    2003: Pat Cash
    2002: Mervyn Rose, Thelma (Coyne) Long
    2001: Mal Anderson, Nancye (Wynne) Bolton
    2000: Ken McGregor
    1999: Australia inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame
    1998: John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Lesley (Turner) Bowrey, Adrian Quist
    1997: Fred Stolle, Jack Crawford, Gerald Patterson
    1996: Frank Sedgman, John Bromwich, Sir Norman Brookes, Ashley Cooper, Harry Hopman
    1995: Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall
    1994: Roy Emerson, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Neale Fraser
    1993: Rod Laver, Margaret Smith (Court)

  • link
    The all-new ausopen.com emphasises tournament information that fans most want to access in an easy-to-navigate design for all desktop and mobile platforms.
    | 29 September, 2014

    New ausopen.com puts fans in the box seat

    By ausopen.com

    Ausopen.com has today unveiled a fresh, new, contemporary look for the launch of Australian Open 2015.

    The new site emphasises tournament information that fans most want to access, in an easy-to-navigate design that can be viewed across all desktop and mobile platforms.

    The streamlined site features easy access to ticketing, membership and event information, job applications and tournament news.

    “We wanted to give fans another experience which simplifies their access to information that we know they are after at this time of year, including tickets, and it was important that the site could be viewed across a range of devices,” explains Kim Trengove, Manager Digital & Publishing at Tennis Australia.

    The new-look ausopen.com will act as a prelude to the official Australian Open 2015 tournament website, developed by Australian Open technology partner IBM, which will go live ahead of the tournament in January.

    Fans can still access information – such as scores, draws and player profiles – from last year’s tournament.

    Following Australian Open 2015, ausopen.com will revert back to its current, more streamlined format, and will remain like this outside of tournament dates.

    “This will serve to keep fans up to date with the most relevant tournament news, special offers and updates on ticketing and membership information throughout the year,” Trengove says.

  • link
    A Ballkid in action at Australian Open 2014; Getty Images
    The squad of Australian Open 2015 Ballkids is taking shape, and the talented hopefuls are training hard ahead of the year's first Grand Slam event in January.
    | 26 September, 2014

    Ballkids honing their skills

    By Matt Trollope

    And then there were 450 …

    That’s the current size of the contingent of hopefuls vying for a place in the 380-strong squad of Ballkids that will work matches at Australian Open 2015.

    They applied for one of the prized positions back in January – among 2000 applicants – and having come through Level One trials in March and Level Two trials in May, are now being put through their paces ahead of the final squad announcement at the end of October.

    Such a pathway is what tournament operations coordinator Tania Hall says makes the Australian Open Ballkids the best in the world.

    “We have one of the most intensive training programs of the four Grand Slams,” she says.

    “As a result, by the time the kids get out there in January, being a Ballkid is second nature for them.”

    The Ballkids in training have since August, been honing their skills with volunteers hitters; recreational players who take to the courts at Melbourne Park to play matches which then provides the kids with practice working a court.

    The finalised squad then participates in the December Showdown, something of a dress rehearsal for the main event in January. Matches in junior Australian Championship tournaments and the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off provide further opportunities for Ballkids to put their training into practice.

    Ballkids range in age from 12 to 15, with many of the older ones acting as mentors to their younger counterparts. This has come about through the Ballkid leadership team, an initiative introduced three years ago and which acts similarly to a school’s student representative council (SRC).

    In 2014, 150 kids applied to be a part of the leadership team; they submitted essays outlining their reasons behind wanting to be considered, went through a formal interview process, took part in group activities and were presented with mock scenarios that tested their responses and attitudes in certain situations.

    The 20 successful applicants then took part in a leadership development workshop at Melbourne Park presented by The Summit, a three-hour course in which they participated in team-building and self-awareness activities and even got to hold a python, an exercise which encouraged them to face their fears.

    “(Stepping outside their comfort zone) is what we want them to do,” Hall explains.

    “We don’t want the kids to be the type of leaders who sit back and let everything happen around them. Rather, we want to give them the confidence to take that initiative and give everything a go. At the end of the day (those activities) are the type of thing that shows them that they can.”

    Other exciting opportunities exist for especially talented and dedicated Ballkids. The top performers from 2014, Jake Lee and Zoe Theodorakopoulos, travelled to Beijing in late September to work at the China Open, a tournament that adopts the same Ballkid standards and procedures as the Australian Open.

    During this time, six Chinese Ballkids were selected to work at Australian Open 2015, while in late October, through the tournament’s major sponsor KIA, 20 Korean Ballkids will be included in the final squad of 380.

    For those currently training who don’t progress to the Australian Open 2015 squad, Hall says there are still plenty of opportunities.

    “The upside is they’ve had five months of training with us and exposure to the knowledge we can provide; it’s very specialised what we do,” she explains.

    “Hopefully next year those kids that don’t get in this year will come back and try out again as they have the benefit of all that experience with our training program.”

    Want to work at the Australian Open as a Ballkid? Register your interest for AO2016 at ballkids@tennis.com.au.

  • link
    (L-R) Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal; Getty Images
    Major victories for Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka in 2014 have signalled the possible end to the reign of the Big Four. Will we see the guard continue to change at Australian Open 2015?
    | 24 September, 2014

    AO2015 men: is the reign of the Big Four over?

    By Matt Trollope

    Has the reign of the Big Four ended?

    That was the question on everyone’s minds at the pointy end of the recent US Open, when, instead of getting the highly-anticipated Roger Federer versus Novak Djokovic final, Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori each staged stunning semifinal upsets to prevent it.

    For the first time in almost 10 years, fans were witnessing a Grand Slam final devoid of any members of the illustrious quartet of Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

    Yet after watching Cilic put away a backhand winner to become one of the most surprising Grand Slam champions in recent history, another question arose – was such a result really the sign of a changing of the guard, or merely a flash in the pan?

    It is actually quite difficult to tell.

    We saw the first signs of change right here at the Australian Open in 2014 when Stan Wawrinka romped to the title, beating Djokovic and Nadal en route. He became the first non-Big Four member to win a major title since Juan Martin del Potro claimed the 2009 US Open.

    Cilic was among several players who highlighted Wawrinka’s triumph as something of a watershed moment. “Wawrinka opened the doors for us from the ‘second’ line, and I think most of the guys have now bigger belief that they can do it on the Grand Slams,” he said ahead of the US Open final.

    Yet Wawrinka’s victory had something of an asterisk beside it, given the fact Nadal’s back betrayed him from the second set onwards in their final. Sure enough, the Spaniard was back in the winners’ circle a few months later in Paris, claiming an incredible ninth title at Roland Garros in the past 10 years. His victim in the final was Djokovic; seeing this duo duke it out in the French decider seemed something of a return to normality.

    Such a feeling persisted at Wimbledon, where Djokovic met Federer in the final and erased the disappointment of Paris with his second title at the All England Club. And we were merely a shade away from seeing a repeat of that final in New York, until the advent of Cilic and Nisikori.

    With the Grand Slam season concluded, the status quo remains relatively intact, with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer still occupying the top three places in the rankings. Yet their stranglehold on the game appears to be loosening.

    A momentous year in Djokovic’s personal life – marriage and a baby – plus the inevitable come-down after his emotional Wimbledon victory have combined to diminish some of his trademark intensity. Injuries have returned to plague Nadal, sidelining him since Wimbledon. Federer, despite a heartening return to form in 2014, is now 33 years old; when he comes to Melbourne it will have been two-and-a-half years since his last major triumph. Murray hasn’t been the same since winning Wimbledon in 2013 and then undergoing back surgery; this season he has failed to reach a tournament final.

    The Big Four will undoubtedly be the favourites if they all arrive fit and healthy in Australia in January, but there are, for the first time in a long time, other legitimate contenders to consider.

    Leading the way are Cilic and Wawrinka, who will look to prove that their Grand Slam triumphs were no flukes. Hard courts are tailor-made for Cilic’s brand of controlled aggression while Wawrinka fares pretty well on them too, having gone deep at the US Open in addition to his title run Down Under. The added pressure of expectation may fall on the shoulders of a newly-crowned major champion, but accompanying that is often the belief of knowing they have what it takes to do it again.

    Behind them is an impressive young brigade featuring Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, all of whom have made Grand Slam breakthroughs in 2014. Nishikori’s came in New York, while Raonic and Dimitrov flourished at Wimbledon, each progressing to the semifinals. The members of this exciting trio are all now firmly entrenched in the world’s top 10 and will be eyeing more success in Melbourne.

    Peppered among those names are several veterans who have been at the top of the game for many years and remain capable of springing an upset at a Grand Slam event. David Ferrer continues to hold down a top-five ranking while Tomas Berdych has been productive at the majors in 2014, reaching quarterfinals in Paris and New York while advancing to the semis at Melbourne Park. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s recent Masters victory in Toronto signalled a return to form for the popular Frenchman, and he is knocking on the door of the top 10.

    From a local perspective, Australia will field one of biggest contingents in the last 15 years thanks to having six players in the top 100, many of whom are young, exciting talents. Joining the perennial former No.1 Lleyton Hewitt will be prodigious youngsters Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic and the impressively late-blooming Sam Groth and Marinko Matosevic, giving local fans plenty to cheer about.

    After years of stability throughout the glorious reign of the Big Four, significant change could very well be upon us in the men’s game. The game’s newest star, Cilic, summarises it thus:

    “I feel it’s going to definitely be much bigger competition from next year,” he said.

    “I feel the guys at the top are going pull the other guys, too. I think the game of tennis is definitely going to evolve much more.”

    We’ll get our first look at this evolution at Australian Open 2015.

  • link
    (L-R) Eugenie Bouchard, Petra Kvitova, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep; Getty Images
    Will Serena Williams emerge from her position of favouritism to claim her sixth Australian Open title? Or will the chaos currently reigning on the women's tour throw up a new, unexpected champion?
    | 24 September, 2014

    AO2015 women: Serena’s title to win?

    By Matt Trollope

    After a year or two where stability reigned at the top of the women’s tennis tree, relative chaos has ensued.

    Reigning Australian Open champion Li Na’s retirement has left the sport bereft of one of its brightest and best stars. Victoria Azarenka has shut down her 2014 season due to injury. Top four stars Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova have failed to fire since their stunning exploits at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. So too has Eugenie Bouchard, slipping to world No.9 after a scorching first half of season 2014.

    At the recent US Open, an astonishing nine of the world’s top 10 fell before the quarterfinals. And perhaps in the most notable stat of all, eight different women filled the four Grand Slam final slots of 2014, something that had not happened for 37 years.

    Such events harken back to the disordered scenes that reigned following the retirement of then No.1 Justine Henin in May 2008. It took until 2012 for Serena Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka to cement their strong, sustained presence as the tour’s top three.

    So where do we look for guidance when it comes to predicting success at Australian Open 2015?

    Williams acts as a default setting in these instances. She is the WTA’s queen bee and world No.1, though it may have even been tempting to lump the American in with those aforementioned talents given her unusually tepid performances at the Grand Slams this year.

    Yet that was before she romped through the field at the US Open to win her 18th major and restore some order and sparkle to her season. Fit and healthy again, and with motivation high to catch the Grand Slam titans – Steffi Graf and Margaret Court – still ahead of her in the record books, Williams will look to address a somewhat alarming stat; a near five-year span without hoisting the trophy at Melbourne Park.

    She will have plenty of competition aiming to stop her along the way. And that’s because despite many of the WTA’s top players enduring lean patches, they always present a dangerous prospect, particularly at a Grand Slam.

    Halep is one such player, the new world No.2 and a model of consistency at this year’s majors. Her runner-up finish at Roland Garros was the highlight, but in a demonstration of her all-surface prowess, she reached the semis at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals in Australia.

    World No.3 Kvitova and fourth-ranked Sharapova are even more adept at raising their games at the biggest events. Both multiple Grand Slam champions, they have gone deep before at Melbourne Park – Sharapova won the title in 2008, while Kvitova reached the semis in 2012. Plus they will arrive Down Under with the confidence of currently holding a Grand Slam title; Sharapova triumphed in Paris while Kvitova took the honours at the All England Club.

    Below them are two welcome returns to the top 10 – former world No.1s Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki. Rediscovering some of her best form since her stellar 2008 season, Ivanovic has claimed four WTA titles and more than 50 match wins in 2014, including victories over Serena and Sharapova. Wozniacki, meanwhile, is thriving thanks to a more aggressive mentality and recently reached her first major final in five years at Flushing Meadows. Both love the Plexicushion of Melbourne Park and will receive plenty of crowd support.

    Threats also lie outside the top 10. A rampaging brigade of young talent – led by Bouchard and also featuring Garbine Muguruza, Belinda Bencic and Madison Keys – have all enjoyed career-best seasons in 2014 and will arrive in Australia keen to capitalise on their momentum and make the move from dangerous up-and-comer to bona fide star.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum are more experienced players such as Azarenka, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta, all currently outside the world’s top 15 but showing glimpses of their best in 2014. Should they arrive at Melbourne Park healthy and motivated, no player wants to find them across the net.

    And what of the Aussie stars? Playing in front of her home fans has never brought out the best in Sam Stosur, but she did reach the third round in 2014 and extended Ivanovic to three sets on Rod Laver Arena. Casey Dellacqua, meanwhile, is enjoying a breakout season, kick-started with a run to the last 16 at Melbourne Park and seeing her vault to a career-high ranking of world No.27. She loves the heat and the hard courts, and will look to improve upon her fourth-round finishes of 2008 and 2014.

    Despite the current parity on the tour and the topsy-turvy seasons of its stars, there’s no doubt the women’s game is poised at an extremely exciting juncture. A sensational changing of the guard seems imminent, but the more experienced champions are intent on maintaining their prominence. It is worthy to note that the sport’s four reigning Grand Slam champions are all multiple major winners – the emerging talents are yet to find a way to penetrate this exclusive circle.

    And there’s still a significant tract of the season left to play out. The Asian swing will provide something of a litmus test for the Australian Open, given it too is contested on hard courts in the Asia-Pacific region.

    With most of the top players in action during this time looking to right the ship, finish their season off strongly and head into 2015 with decent momentum, it sets the stage for a thrilling preview of what’s to come in January.

  • link
    Li Na speaks during the trophy presentation following the Australian Open 2014 women's final, which she won over Dominika Cibulkova; Getty Images
    Tennis has said farewell to one of its trailblazing stars following the retirement of beloved Chinese champion Li Na.
    | 19 September, 2014

    Li Na: farewell to a fan favourite

    By Matt Trollope

    Tennis has said farewell to one of its trailblazing stars following the retirement of beloved Chinese champion Li Na.

    Li announced her decision to step away from the game due to recurring knee problems, aged 32.

    She leaves tennis as the reigning Australian Open champion and world No.6 in a year during which she also reached the Sony Open final in Miami, the semifinals at Indian Wells, and won a WTA title on home soil in Shenzhen.

    “The amazing moment in Australia was filled with joy, happiness and extraordinary sense of accomplishment,” she reflected in a statement published on her Facebook page.

    “The task of finally making a decision to hang up my racquet felt a lot more difficult than winning seven matches in a row in the Australian heat. It took me several agonizing months to finally come to the decision that my chronic injuries will never again let me be the tennis player that I can be. Walking away from the sport, effective immediately, is the right decision for me and my family.”

    Her victory at Melbourne Park was her second Grand Slam victory, following on from her history-making triumph at Roland Garros in 2011 where she became the first Asian player to win a major title.

    That final in Paris was watched by 116 million people in her homeland, a victory that is widely credited with creating a tennis boom in China. More and more people are taking up the game at a grassroots level, while an increasing number of players from the world’s most populous nation are popping up in the rankings; impressively, there are four Chinese women currently inside the world’s top 100.

    Yet while she may have won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open, many of her breakthroughs in the game came in Australia. It was at Melbourne Park in 2010 where she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal thanks to a hard-fought victory over Venus Williams. In 2011 she went one better, saving a match-point in an epic semifinal against then-world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki to become the first Chinese player in history to progress to a major final.

    She would lose the 2011 decider in a high-quality match against Kim Clijsters, and met the same fate in the 2013 final against Victoria Azarenka, also going down in three sets.

    This year’s Australian Open final against Dominika Cibulkova proved third time lucky.

    “Winning a Grand Slam title this year and achieving a (career-high) ranking of World No.2 is the way I would like to leave competitive tennis,” she declared.

    It was a wildly popular victory for the Chinese star, not only in her home country but also among Australian fans who had come to heartily embrace her. They appreciated her powerful game and dynamic athleticism, respected her sportsmanlike conduct and loved her hilarious media appearances.

    Two of those in particular will go down in the Australian Open annals; following on from her 2011 post-semifinal on-court interview in which she accused her husband of keeping her awake with his snoring, she delivered a memorable acceptance speech during the 2014 final trophy presentation that had the Rod Laver Arena crowd in stitches and has since registered more than one million views on YouTube.

    Li walks away from tennis having captured nine singles title, more than 500 career match wins and $16.7 million in career prize money.

    The list of “firsts” she set for tennis in China is equally impressive – she was the first Chinese player to win a WTA singles title (in Guangzhou, 2004) and a WTA Premier-level title (at the Apia International Sydney in 2011); plus the first from her country to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal (at Wimbledon in 2006) and compete at the WTA Finals (in 2011). She was also the first to crack the singles top 20, and the only one to date to break into the top 10 and top five.

    “She is a pioneer who opened doors to tennis for hundreds of millions of people throughout China and Asia,” said WTA Chairman & CEO Stacey Allaster.

    “It’s hard to be a household name in a nation with 1.4 billion people, but that’s what Li Na is. Thanks to all she has achieved and contributed; her legacy is immense.”

  • link
    Andy Murray (centre) with members of the Alice Springs community as part of the AO Tennis Blitz in 2014; Fiona Hamilton
    The AO Tennis Blitz is a series of campaigns that encourage people of all ages and abilities to pick up a racquet and have a hit.
    | 19 September, 2014

    Your guide to the AO Tennis Blitz

    By Tennis Australia

    The AO Tennis Blitz is a series of campaigns that encourage people of all ages and abilities to pick up a racquet and have a hit.

    Schools, tennis clubs, communities and individuals are invited to get involved and “play the Australian Open”.

    The AO Tennis Blitz also rewards the top 256 tennis towns in Australia with a player who will represent them at Australian Open 2015 [128 men and 128 women]. Every person that registers to take part in the AO Tennis Blitz earns points for their nominated town and the more points a town earns, the greater their chance of securing a higher ranked player.

    The winning town will get to choose the No.1 male or female player for their town to support. The next highest scoring towns will be alternatively matched to male and female players. A town leaderboard will be online to see how your town is progressing in late October.


    For the second year running the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) have joined forces to be the official charity partners of the AO Tennis Blitz. The AO Tennis Blitz will support these two charities via its Win a Wildcard and Ultimate School Challenge campaigns. The AO Tennis Blitz is the first campaign in which these two charities have worked together.

    > Make a donation

    Ways you can play the Australian Open

    Ultimate School Challenge

    Schools around Australia can register to host their own school tennis day, with fun tennis activities and fundraising for NBCF and PCFA. A celebrity judging panel will choose a winning school for each state. The winning school from each state will win a $5000 tennis grant.

    > Schools register here

    Win A Wildcard

    One Australian Open 2015 mixed doubles wildcard is up for grabs. Any mixed doubles pair over the age of 18 and of any tennis ability can enter one of 32 qualifying tournaments to be held around Australia throughout October.

    > Enter now

    Ultimate Club Challenge

    Tennis clubs around Australia can register to host a club tennis day by 12 December. A $5000 prize will be awarded to the most creative and successful tennis day per state. This challenge is a chance for people of all ages and abilities to get down to their club and have a hit.

    > Clubs register here

    The Great Tennis-Tacular

    The Great Tennis-Tacular is a series of community tennis events held at more than 20 locations around Australia, in prominent public spaces including festivals and shows, encouraging locals to participate in a range of tennis activities including ANZ Tennis Hot Shots, Cardio Tennis and Hit the Target.

    > Find free tennis near you

    Hit the Target

    Hit the Target is a fun interactive online competition where participants can test their accuracy and win great prizes using a giant tennis canon. Get in early to win a chance to hit with the world’s best on centre court at Rod Laver Arena in January.

    > Enter now

    Ultimate Coach Challenge

    A coach will be selected in each state based on their active involvement in the AO Tennis Blitz, with the winners flown to Melbourne for a trip to the 2015 Coaches’ Conference and Australian Open 2015. The prize is valued at over $2000!

    > View the Ultimate Coach Challenge terms and conditions

    AO Blitz FAQ

    What are the age restrictions?
    Anyone over the age of six can register for the Hit the Target individual competition. You must be over the age of 18 to register for Win a Wildcard.

    Can I play for myself AND be a part of a school or club challenge?
    You can register as an individual and encourage your club and school to sign up and hold a tennis day to earn more points for your town.

    Do I have to live in the town I’m playing for?
    No, the postcode you register represents the town you will be playing for.

    How does a town “win” an Australian Open player?
    The Australian Open Tennis Blitz rewards the top 256 tennis towns in Australia with a player who will represent them at Australian Open 2015. When individuals, schools and clubs register for an AO Tennis Blitz activity they earn points for the suburb/town they nominate or are located in. The more points earned for a town the better chance they have of securing a higher ranked player.

    How else can I get involved?
    There are lots of ways to get involved in the AO Tennis Blitz. You can register as an individual and take part in our online competition, attend a club tennis day, encourage your school to host a tennis day, and attend one of 20 free community tennis days held across the country.

  • link
    The Social Show; Tennis Australia
    The Social Show is injecting a fresh perspective into the online tennis conversation, a unique blend of segments and pastiche offering an entertaining and (potentially) hilarious look at the tennis world.
    | 09 September, 2014

    The Social Show: our digital delinquents

    By ausopen.com

    The Social Show is injecting a fresh perspective into the online tennis conversation. Think of it like a turtle stuck on its back, disappointing and yet somehow endearing.

    Hosted by Dan Lattimer and Michael Teychenne, the duo showcase the social media news through their unique blend of segments and pastiche, providing an entertaining and potentially hilarious look at the tennis world online.

    Debuting at the 2014 Australian Open, the show has steadily grown in both ambition and fake moustache quota. Following the recent US Open, the Social Show sought to answer the questions now worth asking and has provided a presence throughout the tennis calendar.

    Legitimised with cameos from players who seemingly don’t value their time very well, the show has featured unique moments with famous faces like Victoria Azarenka, Pat Rafter, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Henri Leconte and the Bryan brothers.

    Yes, when it comes to social, the boys have their ears to the ground, their fingers on the pulse and their tongues in their cheeks.

    Check out one of the latest episodes below, and follow The Social Show on our social media channels; you can catch full episodes on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and special snippets on Instagram.

  • link
    Australian wildcard pairing Jarmila Gajdosova (L) and Matt Ebden kiss the trophy after winning the Australian Open mixed doubles championship; Getty Images
    Through the Win a Wildcard competition, you could receive a prized wildcard into the mixed doubles event at Australian Open 2015.
    | 05 September, 2014

    Win a Wildcard into Australian Open 2015

    By Ausopen

    Thousands of Aussie hopefuls are expected to pick up a racquet to take part in the nationwide Win a Wildcard competition, with the ultimate winner receiving a wildcard into the mixed doubles event at Australian Open 2015.

    Mixed doubles pairs across Australia are encouraged to enter one of 32 qualifying tournaments to be held in every state and territory in October.

    Players aged 18 and over can participate, with three competition grades catering to all standards of play.

    The winning pairs from all 32 venues will be invited to Melbourne Park in December to contest the finals, with the winners awarded a coveted Australian Open mixed doubles wildcard and a $5,000 grant for their tennis club.

    The winning pair will receive the full Grand Slam treatment, including exclusive tournament accreditation, transport and access to all player services.

    The Win a Wildcard competition proudly supports charity partners the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, with $20 from every individual entry fee donated to these leading cancer research organisations.

    Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said the initiative was designed to encourage grassroots tennis players to chase their Grand Slam dreams.

    “We’re very excited to offer a mixed doubles wildcard into Australian Open 2015, and I encourage everyone to find their nearest qualifying tournament and sign up. This is the chance of a lifetime to join the world’s best tennis players at Melbourne Park,” he said.

    “Win a Wildcard is an event for people of all ages and tennis abilities, in support of two great charity organisations, and I look forward to seeing the winners on court at Melbourne Park this summer.”

    Todd Woodbridge, winner of 22 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles believes the Win a Wildcard competition will encourage more people to pick up a racquet and play tennis.

    “This is the most amazing prize any aspiring tennis player could hope to win – the chance to compete at Australian Open 2015,” he said.

    “It will be fantastic to have more than 10,000 players competing in the play-offs in October, and I look forward to checking out the form of the finalists here at Melbourne Park in December. There’s sure to be some tough competition.”

    See the full list of qualifying tournament venues and dates; entries for each qualifying tournament close the Monday prior to the event. Entry is $25 per person.

    Keep up to date with all the latest news on Twitter #winawildcard and on Facebook.

  • link
    Victoria Azarenka celebrates in the locker room following her victory in the women's singles final at Australian Open 2013; Getty Images
    You may have watched it on TV or even attended in person, but did you know you can experience an even greater connection to the Australian Open with a guided tour? Australian Open guided tours take you behind the scenes of one of the world’s biggest sporting and entertainment events, giving you unprecedented access to […]
    | 02 September, 2014

    Go behind the scenes at the Australian Open

    By ausopen.com

    You may have watched it on TV or even attended in person, but did you know you can experience an even greater connection to the Australian Open with a guided tour?

    Australian Open guided tours take you behind the scenes of one of the world’s biggest sporting and entertainment events, giving you unprecedented access to areas of Melbourne Park only enjoyed by the players and staff during the Australian Open.

    Run by knowledgeable and friendly Tennis World staff, the guided tours take you into the spectacular Rod Laver Arena and its exclusive backstage areas, including access to corporate superboxes.

    You’ll also get to visit the media theatrette where players conduct press conferences, the player change rooms, the Walk of Champions and the tournament control desk, plus check out the magnificent trophies on display in the halls of Melbourne Park.

    Tours run several times a day throughout the week, including weekends. And given you may well be inspired to pick up a racquet after the tour, you can even book a court at Tennis World and play on the same Australian Open courts as the world’s best!

    Visit the Tennis World website for information on guided tour times and prices.

  • link
    The roof opens over Margaret Court Arena in preparation for Australian Open 2015; Tennis Australia
    The addition of Margaret Court Arena as a third retractable-roof stadium at Melbourne Park will officially “weatherproof” the Australian Open.
    | 24 July, 2014

    Margaret Court Arena weather-proofs the AO

    By Ausopen

    The addition of Margaret Court Arena as a third retractable-roof stadium at Melbourne Park will officially “weatherproof” the Australian Open, according to Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.

    “Plans for Australian Open 2015 are well underway and we look forward to unveiling the new MCA, which promises to be one of the finest tennis stadiums in the world,” Tiley said as he outlined plans for the 2015 tournament.

    New initiatives announced for Australian Open 2015 include the ticketing of Margaret Court Arena, with ground pass holders gaining access to more than 9500 general admission seats at Hisense Arena.

    “The retractable roof at MCA, along with ground pass entry for fans at Hisense, will ensure more fans than ever before have access to uninterrupted tennis action, whatever the weather,” Tiley said.

    “The redevelopment and stadium upgrades mean we could technically complete all Australian Open matches even with a fortnight of solid rain.

    “We are very proud to lead the way in world tennis as the only Grand Slam with three retractable roof venues, and MCA will feature what we believe to be the world’s fastest moving stadium roof, which will open or close in just five minutes.

    “We had a taste of MCA’s intimate atmosphere this year and with an extra 2500 seats next year it promises to be electric. We want to ensure as many fans as possible have access to the MCA matches, and by ticketing the venue patrons can plan their AO experience well in advance,” Tiley continued.

    New initiatives for AO 2015 include:

    • more than 9500 stadium seats in Hisense Arena accessible with a Ground Pass for the first eight days
    • new look Margaret Court Arena (MCA) ticketed from days one to eight, with six night sessions
    • majority of Rod Laver Arena sessions at 2014 prices, including Men’s and Women’s finals (see full ticketing details attached)
    • Margaret Court Arena, with the stunning new roof and now total crowd capacity of 7300, is the final piece in Stage One of the Victorian Government’s $366 million redevelopment of Melbourne Park.

    Additional benefits for tennis fans include:

    • more than 3200 square metres of shade around the MCA concourse level
    • increased shaded areas within the MCA stadium
    • uninterrupted match play on MCA in all weather conditions
    • upgraded retail and food and beverage outlets at MCA
    • upgraded amenities in Rod Laver Arena

    Stage Two of the Melbourne Park redevelopment was announced in January and includes a major refurbishment of Rod Laver Arena, a new city access bridge from Birrarung Marr and broadcast and administration buildings.

    The project is currently in the planning and design stage. Australian Open ticket packages for Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena go on sale at 9am on Wednesday 1 October (AEST), with single session tickets and ground passes on sale from 9am on Tuesday 8 October.

    Tickets will be available from www.ticketek.com.au.

  • link
    Rod Laver Arena; Getty Images
    Australian Open Membership allows you to enjoy an exclusive range of benefits that will enhance your spectator experience at Australian Open 2015.
    | 24 July, 2014

    Secure your tickets early to Australian Open 2015

    By Ausopen

    Australian Open Membership allows you to enjoy an exclusive range of benefits including early access to tickets before general sale, complimentary ground passes and the opportunity to enter the ticket ballots for Wimbledon, US Open and French Open.

    Australian Open Members also enjoy discounts on official merchandise and court hire at Melbourne Park, together with exclusive access to the air-conditioned members’ lounge onsite at Australian Open.

    Different levels of individual and family memberships are available to suits your needs and budget.

    > Become a member today to secure your advantage to Australian Open 2015

  • link
    Dominika Cibulkova celebrates beating Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the women's final at Australian Open 2014; Getty Images
    Injuries, nicknames that aren't, resurgent veterans, up-and-comers breaking through and two worthy champions - Australian Open 2014 had it all.
    | 26 January, 2014

    Day 14 rewind: Open shut

    By Darren Saligari

    To win a Grand Slam tournament, you need everything going right for you. And for 127 men and 127 women, unfortunately not everything happened the way they wished.

    Not only do you have to overcome seven opponents, but at Australian Open 2014 there were other significant mountains to climb – blazing heat, injuries, heartbreak and even being called the wrong nickname proved to be a mountain too high for some.

    “It’s not my nickname, some idiot put it on Wikipedia,” stormed Marinko Matosevic in his post-match press conference. Matosevic was referring to the crowd calling out “Mad Dog”, which he said distracted him during his first-round loss to Kei Nishikori in a five-set heartbreaker.

    Sadly, Marinko wasn’t the only player who experienced some form of identity crisis during the fortnight.

    Victoria Azarenka was called “Vicki” instead of her preferred Vika, Tomas Berdych was told he looked like an Argentinean footballer, to which he replied “But I’m not. I’m still tennis player, and I’m happy for that.” And Grigor Dimitrov, who has had to put up with the unwelcome nickname “Baby Fed”, confirmed once and for all what his name is: “We have debated that for quite some time and we have said it loud and clear that my name is Grigor.” Dimitrov, however, managed to put it behind him on his way to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

    Speaking of identification issues, Sabine Lisicki seemed to be confused about who she lost to in the second round.

    “Got beaten by the heat today. Very unfortunate but that’s life. Thx so so much for your support out there!!” she tweeted. To set the record straight, it was Monica Niculescu, not the sun, who moved through to the third round.

    The German was just one of a string of highly-ranked players who found themselves on an early flight home.

    Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Jerzy Janowicz and Petra Kvitova were just some of the big names to fall.

    Arguably Serena’s demise was the least expected. The five-time champion seemed subdued in press all week, and it wasn’t until her coach Patrick Mouratoglou let it slip that she had been experiencing problems with her back that it became clear why the 17-time Grand Slam champ didn’t have her usual spring in her step.

    “So he’s the one that’s snitching?” exclaimed Williams when questioned about her back. Up until that point Williams had not mentioned the issue and was keen to keep it under wraps; her coach, on the other hand …

    Both defending champions Djokovic and Azarenka failed to defend their 2013 crowns, each bowing out in the quarterfinals.

    It wasn’t the result that the two world No.2s wanted, but for Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic, making it to the quarterfinals was a big step but for different reasons.

    Halep won six WTA titles in 2013 but had failed to translate that into Grand Slam success, until now. Now with her first major quarterfinal under her belt, Halep has a solid base to build on in 2014.

    Ivanovic’s quarterfinal appearance here was just her second appearance in the final eight at a major since winning Roland Garros 2008.

    She eventually lost to 30th seed Eugenie Bouchard, who pulled off one of the most memorable runs here for a while before losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Li Na.

    It was a dream come true for Li, who has been a finalist here twice. After a tight opening set against surprise finalist 20th seed Dominka Cibulkova, Li grabbed the ascendancy and rode it all the way to the presentation ceremony, where she gave one of the all-time classic speeches.

    For Cibulkova, it was her first major final and despite the loss, the 20th seed was happy with her tournament.

    “It was real long two weeks, very nice two weeks for me. I mean, the most beautiful.”

    From beautiful we switch to nightmare, which is perhaps the only way to describe the ongoing streak of first-round losses for local hopes Matosevic and Jarmila Gajdosova.

    Matosevic’s first-round loss stretches his Australian Open record to 0-12, while Gajdosova is 0-9 in Melbourne. After their respective losses, Gajdosova distanced herself from Melbourne Park, but Matosevic hurled a few grenades on the way out.

    A broken hat, his coach – tennis legend Mark Woodforde – the crowd and the umpire all came under fire as Matosevic let it all hang out in the press room.

    There was heartbreak of a different kind for Russian doubles duo Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. Leading No.1 seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 5-2 in the deciding third set, the Russian duo had two chances to serve it out – and neither could. Instead the Italians won five games in a row to take the third set 7-5 and win back-to-back Australian Open titles.

    And then there was Rafael Nadal. The No.1 seed looked a good chance to notch up his 14th major title before Stanislas “The Stanimal” Wawrinka and a back injury intervened.

    All credit to the Swiss eighth seed, he played lights-out tennis in the first and second sets before Nadal’s back seized up, which not only robbed the Spaniard of movement but disrupted Wawrinka’s momentum.

    Despite a brief fightback from Nadal in the third set, Wawrinka held on to close out the match in four sets 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 to win his first Grand Slam title and become the first player to beat Nadal and Djokovic on the way to a major title.

    What did you say?
    “I’m sorry to finish this way, I tried very very hard … This year was one of the more emotional tournaments of my career… See you in 12 months.”
    - Rafael Nadal during his acceptance speech on Sunday

    It’ll be a long drive home for …
    Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard will think that he has a Melbourne curse. He retired in the quarterfinals of Australian Open 2010, was injured in the quarterfinals of Australian Open 2011 and didn’t play here last year due to a knee injury. And now this. Rafa’s quest to win every major twice will have to wait at least one more year.