Tennis Australia unveiled the refurbished Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park yesterday to make the Australian Open the first Grand Slam with three retractable roof venues.
The $AUD183m (£100m) investment boosts the capacity of the iconic showcourt to 7,500, rivalling Hisense Arena (10,500) and Rod Laver Arena (15,000).
The redevelopment of Margaret Court Arena is part of a $AUD363m (£200m) project including the addition of eight indoor courts, 13 outside courts, a plaza and a pedestrian link between Melbourne Park and the surrounding sports precinct in Melbourne’s inner-east.
Melbourne endured its longest heat wave in more than century after the temperature topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) four days in a row during the 2014 Australian Open. In the past, heavy rain has also caused havoc with the match schedule.
But with all three main courts now equipped with retraceable roofs, tournament organisers are confident the investment will weather-proof the opening major of the season in 2015.
“The redevelopment and stadium upgrades mean we could technically complete all Australian Open matches even with a fortnight of solid rain,” Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley said.
“We are very proud to lead the way 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.”
Nadal charity match
Rafael Nadal, named ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ by Tennis Australia, will play a special charity event at the revamped Margaret Court Arena before the official launch of the 2015 tournament.
The Spaniard was thrilled to be invited to unveil the impressive new arena early next year.
“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,” the 2009 champion said.
Kyrgios launches court
Margaret Court launched the arena alongside Nick Kyrgios, and the Australian tennis legend offered a few words of advice to the emerging star.
Although the last Australian to win the Asia-Pacific Grand Slam was Mark Edmondson in 1976, Court encouraged the 19-year-old to envision himself lifting the Australian Open crown as they posed with the trophy.
“She was giving me a few tips when we were holding the trophy and it’s definitely something I’m going to remember,’’ Kyrgios said.
“She was telling me to visualise holding the trophy. That’s what she did before she actually won it. So, yeah, that was pretty special.
“You’ve got to definitely believe you can win the tournament, visualise it. I’ve done some research on that stuff and apparently it’s supposed to help. It’s important to go out there and believe you can win the tournament.’’
Kyrgios is currently resting his right arm to be ready for the 2015 Australian Open in January, and looks forward to hopefully getting his chance to play on the brand-new Margaret Court Arena.
“I walked in here and it blew my mind away, especially after playing here last year. The crowd was unbelievable, the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in. With the roof closed, it’s going to be insane, Davis Cup-type,’’ he said.
Court on prize money
The Australian Open total prize pool has been increased by 10% to $AUD36.3m (£20m) which will see each winner of the 2015 title pocket $3m (£1.6).
72-year-old Court, who won an unmatched 11 Australian women’s singles titles, played down the importance of money as motivation in the modern game.
“I think the top ones don’t really look at that, they look at the slams (titles), it’s not about the money to them, they’ve got enough. It’s about winning the Grand Slams,’’ she said.
“My first Australian (title), I wasn’t seeded to win and my first trophy was an umbrella and my second one was a cosmetic case.’’
The 2015 Australian Open will kick off on 19 January following the completion of lead-up tournaments in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Adelaide.