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I’ve made no secret of my love for Melbourne or this tournament. I was therefore concerned when I heard reports that its long-term future is not entirely safe.
For me, it simply isn’t even a question: the Australian Open should remain in Melbourne. I am very young and admit I am no expert on the history of the game, but for me as a player I feel that this tournament belongs here as much as any of the other three Grand Slams belong in their current locations. To move any of them would be unthinkable.
The traditions here may not be as obvious as at Wimbledon, but that doesn’t mean that the Australian Open’s identity isn’t as clearly defined as the other Grand Slams. Each major tournament has its own unique feel: at Wimbledon it is tradition; in Paris it is style and elegance; at the US Open it is entertainment and noise!
The Australian Open to me represents the most fun of all the Grand Slams. The organization is fantastic, the weather is great and the location on the calendar is also a big strength, because we are all full of excitement and expectation at the beginning of a new season. Everyone is so friendly here: it’s no wonder Roger Federer calls this the “Happy Slam”.
I have been told that Melbourne Park has been criticised a little bit for having “old” facilities. I was surprised to hear that, because I rate the facilities here as highly as almost anywhere in the world, and certainly no worse than at the other three Grand Slams.
I have been very lucky to have played all my matches on the main courts over the last few years, but I practice all the time on the outside courts and I haven’t noticed anything wrong with the facilities. Everything seemed to be in good order.
Obviously I have a different experience on-site than most visitors – I can say that the newly-refurbished player areas are easily the best in the world – but I have spoken to my family and friends, who come here as fans, and they also didn’t have any complaints. They enjoy being able to walk from the heart of the city to Melbourne Park in just 15 minutes: you cannot do that at any of the other Grand Slams.
If the organizers are going to spend money on improving the site, they will be making a great venue even greater.
I would not move this tournament from its current calendar position either. I always spend up to a month training in Australia beforehand, and I can feel the public’s holiday spirit during the summer months. It also ensures that we get great crowds.
It makes sense to keep it in January, when so many people are on holiday. Moving it to February, to allow players more warm-up tournaments, is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Looking at the matches this year, it’s clear that the players are already in great form, because they prepared well.
This column was written for the Sunday Herald Sun and its sister publications, which are the biggest-selling newspapers in Australia. A donation to UNICEF charities has been made for this column
Photo: Manuela Davies / doubleXposure.com