The Australian Open is already just around the corner! Australian Open 2012 was launched last week at Melbourne Park by the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, and Aussie legend Roy Emerson.

Australian Open 2012 is set to offer the highest prize money in the history of Grand Slam tennis. The total prize pool will be $26 million, with the men’s and women’s champions taking home a record $2.3 million each.

A few other initiatives have been announced:
– the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, will head to China for the first ever international leg of the Australian Open Trophy Tour this week.
Hawk-Eye to be introduced on Margaret Court Arena
– bigger and better Grand Slam Oval following redevelopment work, with improved access and additional space
– expanded merchandise range to include prestige memorabilia collection
– Australian Open Kids Day returns with more activities and opportunities for kids to play on the Australian Open courts
– improved player facilities, with a new player lounge, gym and entertainment options including a shark aquarium and live music performances.

The Australian Open is my second favorite Grand Slam (the first being Wimbledon, of course), and I am always amazed by their innovations and how they take care of the spectators.

Stay tune for more coverage of Australian Open 2012!

If the collective emotions of the Australian people could be harnassed, Patrick Rafter would have won a sackful of Australian championships. He was one of our most popular players because of his gallantry, his dashing style of play, and lack of affectation. His good looks won him a few points too.

Pat Rafter

Ever since Mark Edmondson won the 1976 Open, Australians had been awaiting another home-grown champion to place his name on the men’s honour roll. One of the vanishing breed of serve and volley players, Rafter slowly imposed himself on the Australian consciousness in the 90s. But he rarely played as well at home as on foreign shores. He twice won the US Open and twice made the Wimbledon final.

His best effort at Melbourne Park was a fourth round finish in 1995 – the best, that is, until 2001, when he faced Andre Agassi in a semifinal, with a chance to play either Arnaud Clement or Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final.

Pat Rafter

On a warm, steamy evening, Rafter led Agassi by two sets to one. As the match wore on, however, the heat and tension took toll of the Aussie’s muscles, causing him to sweat heavily, cramp, and struggle with fatigue. Agassi, keeping down unforced errors, won 7-5 2-6 6-7 6-2 6-3.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi and Pat Rafter

Source: 2010 official program