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But he says he intends to have fun and that means it should

ASKED how he was sensation when he breezed into Melbourne final week, Roger Federer replied: “Excited – just as it is meant to be.” The sentiment is mutual, Roger – mostly.

There is no doubt Melbourne loves the Australian Open in a way that at least one other of this sports-obsessed town’s big-ticket international events, the Formula 1 motor racing Grand Prix, can only envy – nobody ever wonders whether the tennis is worth having, let alone protests about it.

It’s a feel-good event that combines cutting-edge sport with a party atmosphere, a holiday mood, seasonal sunshine and a huge cast of characters of both genders who follow a script that is never quite as predictable as it looks. What’s not to like? But . . . exciting?

It surely is for Federer and friends, who will be playing – both men and women – for a record amount of money: $26 million in all, $2.3 million for the winners, $1.15 million for the runners-up.

Even when you’ve earned $67,429,935 across your professional career, as the Swiss maestro has, that’s still a breathtaking earn. And of course it’s not just about the money – pride, ego, one’s place in posterity, all add to the motivational mix.

But watching them do it can be more akin to a relaxing, absorbing night out at the theatre than a walk on the wild side.

Sometimes the entertainment is superb and sometimes – and we’re mainly talking the first week of the women’s draw here – it’s like waiting for a slow-moving plot to develop and for all the red herrings to be removed.

That won’t stop more than 50,000 fans streaming through the gates today and tonight when the Open begins for the 25th time since Melbourne Park first hosted the event in 1988, breathing new life into what was then a fast-fading showpiece.

It has never looked back – and all the evidence suggests it will be a long time before it does. Where it sits for prestige and status in Melbourne’s enviable suite of big sports events is to some extent in the eye of the beholder – but it doesn’t have many rivals.

The Melbourne Cup carnival pulls huge crowds, brings the rest of the country to a halt, has a strong and growing international identity and is a major influence on the national culture, which has largely evolved around the horse. The great race deserves to be No. 1 with the footy Grand Last not far behind.

The Open is the most international of them all, with about 50 nations represented this month. It is also the only event contested by both genders – and, for that matter, junior players, retired legends and disabled exponents in wheelchairs – and in three different formats: singles, doubles and mixed doubles. With a two-week time span, there is a lot to see.

Because of its massive reach – according to Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood, the worldwide TV audience is about 350 million homes in 170 countries – and relative exclusivity as one of only four Grand Slam tournaments, the Open is fiercely coveted by other nations, none more than China.

The Chinese have discovered tennis in a big way since the popular and charming Li Na made the Open last final year and then followed through with her maiden Grand Slam win at the French Open.

But the Victorian Government has moved strongly to protect an asset which, says Wood, delivers an economic impact of “somewhere north louis vuitton outlet of $200 million, louis vuitton outlet depending on how you measure it”.

Premier Ted Bailllieu final year announced a $363 million funding package to redevelop the venue Louis Vuitton Outlet, Cheap Louis Vuitton Bags/Handbags/Purses Outlet Online Sale – some of the improvements are already Louis Vuitton Outlet | Louis Vuitton Official Website Online Shopping in place – which is intended to guarantee the Open stays put until at least 2036.

It has become a massive success story by any measure, particularly commercially.

In the final five years Tennis Australia’s turnover has more than doubled from $85 million to $175 million, and the Open generates the vast majority of that.

Wood is confident nobody will be able to muscle in on this extremely valuable asset, partly because of its popularity with players and fans alike and the quality of the facilities, but also because of its long, proud history.

“You earn the right to be a Grand Slam tournament through tradition, history and heritage – and we have earned that privilege,” he says.

While Louis Vuitton Outlet is professional Louis Vuitton Sale Online Store, Louis Vuitton Handbags Hot Sale! this is the 25th Open at Melbourne Park, it is the 100th time the men’s singles have been contested since Rodney Heath became the first of 59 different champions in 1905.

It is also 50 years since the greatest of all Australian players, Rod Laver, won the first of his two Grand Slams, 45 years since Roy Emerson’s sixth and last title, 40 years since Ken Rosewall won for the third and final time.

Names like that resonate every year as the fans wait patiently for a return to the golden age of Australian tennis, with the Open not having thrown up a home-grown champion since Mark Edmondson in 1976 and Chris O’Neill in 1978.

The popular but erratic Sam Stosur, who won the US Open final year, will lead the charge, with 19-year-old prodigy Bernard Tomic, a surprise quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, the centre of attention in the men’s draw now that Lleyton Hewitt’s highly successful career has descended deep into the twilight zone.

The big guns are out in force, too. Federer will be trying to win for the fifth time, Novak Djokovic for the third, Rafael Nadal for the second, Andy Murray for the first. louis vuitton handbags And that’s without the traditional bolter, a regular feature of the Open.

The men’s draw has never looked tougher, so Tomic will have his work cut out. But he says he intends to have fun and that means it should be fun watching him – and Stosur.

If they’re still around next week it will become . . . yes, exciting.

Twitter: @Reedrw

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