not going to miss a thing," she says, "when the world's best tennis pros play here. I know them all, even those who come from my former country." And then the names flow … "Lendl, Korda, Mecir, Martina (Navratilova), Hana (Mandlikova), Helena ( Sukova), Jana (Novotna), Dominika (Cibulkova). It's just great, all of them have been here in the finals and some have even won the tournament." And then Kim's off to court No 6 because the Czech, Barbora Strycova, is about to play.
And here's another nice, quaint story. A few years ago an elderly gentleman drove me to the stadium. He was one of the 230 tournament chauffeurs. Bob told me that he was previously General Manager of a company with his own private chauffeur. "It's funny," he said grinning, "now, for two weeks, I'm being the chauffeur and sometimes I drive one of the world famous stars." Wonderful Kim and Bob - Aussies through and through!
The Australian Open, as part of the quartet of the Slams, have always been out of the frame. For quarter of a century after 1950 Australia was the dominant tennis nation in the world. Because of this, and because of the long journey to get here, only a few European and American players came and so the winners were usually Australian. In 1982 Borg, McEnroe, Wilander and Lendl didn't want to play in the Australian Open because the prize money was only 400,000 dollars. The top stars of that time preferred playing in Antwerp and Barcelona with 700,000 dollars.
Not anymore! Now the total prize pool is valued at 44 million australian dollars. The Australian Open is now a very prestigious tournament which certainly keeps up with the other Grand Slams. Here are a few figures to indicate the calibre of this tournament. For the Apollo flight and the first moon landing, the largest media event of the 20th century, there were reporters from 56 countries - at the Australian Open there are press and media journalists from 46 nations. In the supporting program of the "Legends", a doubles tournament at the Australian Open, there are 22 former super tennis stars - Navratilova, Clijsters, Davenport, Kafelnikov, Chang, Wilander, Philippoussis, Ivanisevic…. - who have won 131 Grand Slam titles (44 single and 87 double) together! During the tournament, there are about 4,500 volunteers who often give up all of their holidays and another 4,000 who work for companies and restaurants on site. The Australian Open tournament brings in 400 million dollars, a figure not to be sneezed at!
to be continued on the next page