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Tennis Australia boss warns Australian Open could LEAVE Melbourne for Sydney or even China

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Tennis Australia boss warns Australian Open could LEAVE Melbourne for Sydney or even China

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has warned the Australian Open could LEAVE Melbourne for Sydney or even China as two years of Covid crowd restrictions have left the tournament on the brink of financial ruin

The Australian Open is in serious danger of being pulled out of Melbourne and moved to Sydney and perhaps even China as Covid crowd restrictions have left Tennis Australia (TA) cash-strapped and unable to fund much-needed expansion.

That’s the warning from TA chief Craig Tiley, who says even the $1 billion in taxpayers’ money given to the organization over the past decade to improve the Melbourne Park precinct is not enough to bring it up to the standards of other Grand Slam tournaments.

Tiley said the TA was in no position to fund the improvements itself because restrictions on most of the past two Australian Opens had left the organization on the brink financially.

The Australian Open could be removed from Melbourne and moved to Sydney

The Australian Open could be removed from Melbourne and moved to Sydney

He told the Herald Sun that the TA’s cash reserves had ‘gone from $80m to zero, pretty much’ as ​​a result of the Covid crowd restrictions over the past two years.

TA is budgeting for a record 900,000 ticket sales for next month’s event to provide the necessary funds, with Tiley admitting there have been fresh talks about moving the event from Melbourne due to the crisis in finance.

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‘I know it’s been discussed and it’s been debated, absolutely,’ he said.

‘From a personal point of view, the Australian Open should always be in Melbourne – I’ve always advocated that.

Rafael Nadal won the 2022 Australian Open

Ash Barty won last year's Australian Open in his last appearance at the tournament

Rafael Nadal (left) and Ash Barty (right) won at Melbourne Park last year, but in future the players may lift the Australian Open trophy at a different location

‘But I’m only one person.

‘There is an organization, there is a board, there are stakeholders and there is also a company for the future.’

In 2010, there was a strong push from private investment groups in both Sydney and Shanghai to seize the event, prompting the Victorian government to pour $1 billion into improving Melbourne Park and maintaining the event.

While that spending has improved the facilities somewhat, Tiley says the big recent investment by the other Grand Slam hosts – Wimbledon, Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows – has left Melbourne Park looking like its poor cousin again.

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley has warned the future of the Australian Open is in doubt due to the organisation's financial problems created by Covid-related crowd restrictions.

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley has warned the future of the Australian Open is in doubt due to the organisation’s financial problems created by Covid-related crowd restrictions.

Tiley (right) and TA signed a historic TV rights contract extension with Nine Network chief executive Mike Sneesby (left) last month

Tiley (right) and TA signed a historic TV rights contract extension with Nine Network chief executive Mike Sneesby (left) last month

In 2010, there was a strong push from private investment groups in both Sydney and Shanghai to seize the event, prompting the Victorian government to pour $1 billion into improving Melbourne Park and maintaining the event.

While that spending has improved the facilities somewhat, Tiley says the big recent investment by the other Grand Slam hosts – Wimbledon, Roland Garros and Flushing Meadow – has left Melbourne Park looking like a poor cousin again.

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Unlike the other three, Melbourne Park is only leased by TA, not owned, with the facility controlled by the government.

‘There was a period when we were way behind and then we caught up and everyone was together,’ said Tiley.

Melbourne Park (pictured) has had a $1billion investment from the state government over the past ten years but Tiley says it still needs another big stadium and extra outfield

Melbourne Park (pictured) has had a $1 billion investment from the state government over the past ten years but Tiley says it still needs another major stadium and extra outfield

‘Now the other three are making huge leaps and they can because they have the space.

‘So how big a leap do we have to make to make sure we don’t get caught?’

Tiley said Melbourne Park needed another major stadium to complement Rod Laver Arena and John Cain Arena – the two main courts of the Australian Open – and more outside courts.

To do that, he suggested Melbourne Park would need to be extended over the railway lines into what little green space was left in the city’s congested sports precinct, adjacent to the AAMI Park rectangular stadium.