Martin Rogers

Down on Down Under

Busted Racquet

The Australian Open is the most criticized of all Grand Slams, a regular target for verbal sniping from players, some fans and rival destinations.

Everything from the tournament's timing, facilities and value to the tennis calendar seems to draw ire from segments of the sport's community.

However, others point to the Australian Open as the most fun of the Grand Slams and defend its position of equal Slam status alongside Wimbledon and the U.S. and French Opens.

Here we take a look at the pros and cons of the first big event of the year.

Why people don't like the Australian Open

The venue: Melbourne Park once was considered one of the finest tennis venues in world, but time and technology have caught up with it. The locker rooms are considered cramped by elite standards and players have lamented a lack of indoor practice courts.

The timing: Several top players, including Roger Federer and Andy Murray, have voiced the opinion that the tournament should be moved back to February. That would allow greater preparation time and for an expansion of the financially-lucrative Middle East swing of the Tour.

Crowd trouble: Melbourne's cultural diversity has led to some occasional crowd-violence problems in recent years. Brawls have erupted between Croatian, Serbian and Greek fans – a worrying trend that organizers are desperate to stamp out.

Host city: Melbourne Park's contract to host the Australian Open expires in 2016. and there are growing suggestions that the event could be moved. Dubai, Shanghai and Sydney all have been floated as possible options, with one idea promoting the concept of a revolving Asia-Pacific Grand Slam, which changes venue from year to year.

Weather: Melbourne's weather is traditionally unpredictable. January often sees sharp spikes in temperature, so much so that an "extreme heat policy" that pauses play if the heat gets too severe is in operation.

Why the Australian Open deserves its place

Good start to the year: Not many places could host an outdoor tournament at this time of year, and the Australian Open gets the season off to a flying start. It will be especially critical on the men's side this year, as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray prepare for a year-long slugfest for supremacy.

Upsets: Pete Sampras won Wimbledon seven times, while Roger Federer racked up five straight wins in London and New York. The Aussie Open has enjoyed a greater level of unpredictability, with unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reaching last year's final, where he lost to first-time Slam winner Novak Djokovic.

Night sessions: Sometimes they go far too deep into the early hours of the morning, but there is no doubt that the Australian Open night sessions add color to the tournament. Sampras' five-set epic with Jim Courier in 1995 was just one of a long list of big matches to take place amidst one of tennis's most dramatic backdrops.

Atmosphere: The so-called Happy Slam has always been a magnet for crazy fans, and a long way removed from the propriety of Wimbledon or culture of Paris. Painted faces, wacky uniforms and a carnival ambience are all part of the experience Down Under.

View Comments