The Australian Open: The Australian Tennis Coach

Novak Djokovic is welcome at Australian Open, says tournament director; Russian and Belarusian players can compete if they reach top 10

Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, will be at the Australian Open when it returns to Melbourne next month.

At 32, and a man he affectionately refers to as “The Australian tennis coach”, his presence would hardly be unexpected. In fact it might be the only thing to suggest how badly the game needs him. In an age of increasingly intense media scrutiny, it’s difficult to find a higher profile head coach – not just because he is in effect the chief executive officer of the national tennis outfit (he is that) but because he is so, so good at coaching and motivating. He has coached countless sports big and small and – as a student of American football who has a special interest in the game – has a knack for winning games and ensuring victory goes to the team that works best to play. He is one of a select few that could conceivably be described as coaching’s Bill Belichick (or Jürgen Klopp).

Australia has an annual tennis tournament, known more simply by the all-too apt abbreviation of the name, the Australian Open, and this year will welcome its 25th running. It started in 1886 and was initially an amateur competition to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee – now the tournament also serves a significant function through the staging of the Women’s Opener (the final, not always a winner-takes-all contest). It is a prestigious event, one which has taken place in Melbourne every year since 1946.

There isn’t a particular reason why tennis has been given a year off from its peak of popularity and commercialism – as indeed it has – but in 2013 it has received an even closer and more compelling reason, one which will be the subject of much scrutiny and criticism in the weeks and months when it comes back to play in Melbourne. In June, the World Bank estimated it would have received a total benefit for the tournament to exceed A$6bn in 2013, making it one of the 20 most lucrative events on the World Series

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