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Australian Open officials seek to solve the fireworks dilemma

Fireworks disrupt the 2012 semi-final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Fireworks disrupt the 2012 semi-final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Photo: Teagan Glenane

EXCLUSIVE

Tennis Australia officials are negotiating with the state government in an attempt to avoid the annual disruption to play caused by the Australia Day fireworks display. This year, the extended break came during the women's final. Next year: the men.

Often, the best-of-three set women's decider is finished by the scheduled fireworks time of 9.40pm, but instead the interruption came after the third game of the third set between Li Na and Victoria Azarenka. Li fell immediately after the resumption, twisting the ankle she had hurt earlier in the match and being assessed for possible concussion after banging her head on the court.

More frequently the fireworks coincide with the Thursday or Friday night men's semi-final and, last year, the moment came with Rafael Nadal leading Roger Federer 5-2 in the second set. Federer dropped 11 straight points after play resumed.

The decision to stop, or not, is left to the players, with the match suspended at either participant's request, and only continuing if both acquiesce. On Saturday night, a mutually-agreed break that typically lasts for nine minutes went for closer to 10.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said talks had begin with the state government to try to find a solution acceptable to both parties ahead of the 2014 event, with the next men's final scheduled for January 26. He said the interruption was particularly perplexing for the global TV audience, but also had the potential to affect the momentum of a match.

"We are working with the state government to see what possibilities exist," Tiley told Fairfax Media. "We've been talking about what's best, because we do want continuous play, but at the same time we want to recognise and celebrate Australia Day, so it's a bit (caught) between a rock and a hard place.

"If we can make both things work, and have a win-win for both, it would be great. Our preference would be that (the fireworks) don't disrupt the match.

"There's no rush, but we've just got to work through and see what the best options are. Our operations team is talking to the government, because we want Victorians and Australians to have the fireworks, and we want play to be continuous, so what that involves, I don't know."

Another issue to be addressed in the coming months is the lack of space on the men's trophy, the historic Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, for if there is room to add another name below that of 2013 champion Novak Djokovic, it will only be one. First won by Fred Perry in 1943, the cup stands on a 15.5 cm plinth which carries the names of the men's singles winners, each of whom receive a replica of the original.

So, what to do now?

"It's an interesting question. Our engraver tells us we can possibly squeeze in one more name next year, but that would be tight," Tiley said. "We've been expecting for the last few years it would get to this point, but we are in the process of discussing it and talking to a couple of curators as well. There's a number of options out there, but obviously we are committed to not changing the trophy. We've got to find more space, that's the bottom line."

Due to design differences, there is not such a pressing need with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy awarded t the women's singles champion, but Tiley admitted that "eventually it will run out, there will come a time. But they are both trophies with a lot of heritage and history around them, and we've got to make sure we keep them as they are."

The total attendance for this year's Australian Open was 684,457, just short of the 2012 record of 686,006.

68 comments

  • Olympic athletes compete with fans screaming from the stands, as do most other sports. I understand you want to hear the ball come off the opponents racquet but let’s not get too precious. A professional should be able to cope for 10 minutes using just their eyes and allow the rest of the population who can’t afford to sit in the arena to enjoy their city. Alternatively close the bloody roof if it’s that much of a bother.

    Commenter
    Jeff
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    January 28, 2013, 7:19PM
    • It's the stopping to wait that's the problem. Even a couple minutes standing still and you start to stiffen up and add to the stop of mental concentration. I agree tennis players are a bit sooky when it comes to noise but this is a different issue. Start the match earlier or play both men's and women's finals on the same day.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 8:53PM
    • Australia Day is our national day, the tennis can go jump! It's put me off watching this circus of a game for ever now and I was an avid fan. My countries national day is my pride and joy not some overpaid undertalented internationals getting $ Bling!

      Commenter
      Pickled Herring
      Location
      Frankston
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 9:26PM
    • I agree. Why make such a big issue of it? Deal with it. Have a break and enjoy the fireworks or play through them. Or like Jeff says, the roof retracts, so use it and close the bloody thing if it's that big of a problem. We should've have to make sacrifices or compromises for two individuals playing for a big paycheck and their own personal glory.

      Commenter
      iFudge
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 9:47PM
    • Let's just do away with the fireworks instead. The tournament is much more valuable globally, in terms of exposure for Melbourne, than fireworks are to Melburnians. Quite frankly, Australia day is a bit of a non-event. It's symbolic of a day where we decided to establish too many levels of government, and failed to recognise the original Australians, I.e. indigenous Australians.

      Commenter
      Jackie Chiles
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 10:27PM
    • I think the rest day is a good idea. It doesn't have to be the whole day, just that session.

      Most Olympic sports are not sensitive to noise. But a similar level of noise would not be tolerated at a golf tournament.

      I know... I know... Golf is not played at night. I said "Similar".

      Commenter
      Hanging Judge Jeffries
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 11:26PM
    • Great solution shut the roof for half an hour, so play can continue & the fireworks go ahead as usual.

      Commenter
      not rocket science
      Location
      Box Hill
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:04AM
    • You would still be able to hear the fireworks with the roof closed.

      Commenter
      Dee
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:16PM
  • Only in Australia.

    Commenter
    RONOSON
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    January 28, 2013, 7:35PM
    • Doesn't Rod Laver Arena have a closeble roof?!

      Commenter
      Pat
      Location
      Carlton
      Date and time
      January 28, 2013, 7:45PM

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