Advance Australian Open ticket sales are tracking at record levels less than a week out from the start of the Melbourne Park grand slam, with only the Hopman Cup suffering a decline in attendance so far this summer.
A bumper Brisbane International, buoyed by the debut appearance of drawcard Roger Federer, the success of Lleyton Hewitt, and an exceptional women's field, posted its best crowd numbers in its six-year history, with new marks set on seven of the eight days. The aggregate of 105,730 swamped the previous high of 92,802 in 2012.
While the challenging tournament week is this one, with most of the leading men and the top three women preferring to complete their Open preparations on the practice court in Melbourne, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said ticket sales in Sydney were ahead of last year's figures, while patronage at the Hobart International, where Queenslander Sam Stosur is the top seed, and Venus Williams had been in the original cast, is up by 600 per cent.
Tiley attributed the decline in Hopman Cup ticket sales to the fact that the 2013 event was held at the new Perth Entertainment Centre. ''Everyone wanted to see the new venue, and we're probably at a realistic number now of where the Hopman Cup should be as a benchmark,'' Tiley said.
''The Australian Open we're up more than we've ever been in the history of the event, more than 8 per cent year on year, so things are working. These are our strengths and we've got to keep making our strengths stronger.''
Total attendance at the 2013 Australian Open was 684,457, 1549 short of the 2012 record, but Tiley was cautious when asked about the chances of reaching 700,000 at this month's edition. While pre-sales are strong, the greatest variable is the number of walk-up ground pass patrons.
''We're tracking significantly that way [towards 700,000] with ticket sales, but to get those numbers we would need 14 days of good weather,'' Tiley said. ''We've been lucky the last few years, we've really had good weather, and we would hope it would continue that way. The forecast is OK.
''At some point that will be an achievable number at this event, but it's entirely weather dependent. So we'd have to have 14 days, 25 sessions of great weather, and also good match-ups, and your stars getting into the second week. So if those things all happen, then it's achievable.''
Tiley was also unconcerned by the traditional epidemic of withdrawals from the summer series events, with world No.18 Maria Kirilenko and 29th-ranked Jurgen Melzer the only Open no-shows so far who would have been among the seeded. Janko Tipsarevic (heel) has also not made the trip, while other players with injury concerns include last year's semi-finalist Sloane Stephens (wrist) and her Hopman Cup partner John Isner (knee).
''We do experience that every year, and we're still a week away from starting,'' said Tiley. ''Those pullouts are of people who are coming [to Melbourne Park]. I think people do protect their position so they can play the Australian Open. The stakes are high now: $30,000 for a first-round loser … We haven't had any significant pullouts at the Australian Open.''