The first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year. As usual, the major will take place at the historic Melbourne Park, from January 14 to 27. Melbourne Park has been the home of the Australian Open since 1988, but this time around, things won't be the same as the past 31 years--this might even be the best one yet.
Why? Check out these 6 reasons why this Australian Open might be the best one so far.
#1: Expect the highest level of competition
The top 100 of both men's and women's tennis rankings have confirmed their attendance to compete in the 2019 Australian Open.
Expect the strongest playing field on the hard court so far, with the return of defending champions, women's #3 Caroline Wozniacki and men's #4 Roger Federer, as they seek to add yet another Grand Slam title on their resumes. Meanwhile, women's #1 Simona Halep from Romania is on a mission to capture her first Australian Open grand slam.
#2: Chance to witness history as it happens
Speaking of Roger Federer, the Swiss legend is returning to Melbourne not only to defend his crown but also to notch 100 career titles in his storied journey. This will put him in rarefied company, as only him and Jimmy Connors with share the distinction of having 100 career titles.
In addition, an Australian Open title will bring his record-setting total Grand Slam singles titles to 21.
Another person on the cusp of making history is Serbian ace Novak Djokovic, the current men's #1. Novak Djokovic looks to separate himself from the pack by winning a record of 7 Australian Open career grand slams and holding on to his number 1 spot.
#3: Comeback season for a few familiar faces
The world #2 is finally going to be healthy enough to compete in this year's Australian Open. The Spaniard withdrew from the preceding Brisbane International to continue rehabbing his thigh strain so he could be 100% for the AU Open.
The last time he participated in the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal reached the quarterfinals in a match against eventual finalist Marin Cilic, only to retire after 5 sets due to injury.
Another top player looking to capitalise on his return is Andy Murray. The former world no. 1 has been out and recovering from his hip injury over the past 1 and a half years. The last time he was seen in any significant competition was at 2017 Wimbledon last July.
Women's #16 Serena Williams will also be making her highly anticipated return since winning the Australian Open 2 years ago.
#4: $62.5 million
The Australian Open has increased total prize money payouts to a historic high of $62.5 million, up 14 percent from 2018.
Australian Open Tournament Director CEO Craig Tiley said the increase was just one way the organisers continued to invest in the playing group and create a sustainable career path for the next tier of players.
"The players are the stars of the show. They bring in the crowds and fill the stadiums, they inspire the next generation to pick up a racquet, and the rest of us to always keep trying, and push the boundaries of what is possible."
The majority of these increases will be directed towards the players in qualifying, early rounds and doubles. For example, players losing first round in the qualifying event will take home $15,000, double the amount previously awarded, and players losing in the first round of the main draw will earn $75,000 in prize money.
It goes without saying that both Australian Open 2019 men's and women's singles champions will be paid handsomely, with $4.1 million on the line.
#5: New year, new rules
2019 Australian Open participants will be the first to undergo the new rules for tie-breaks and heat-breaks following the recent amendment to the tournament rules.
Instead of playing for a 2-game advantage on a 6-6 final set, the winner will be the first player to reach 10 points. This is a response following the grueling 3-hour final set match between Kevin Anderson and John Isner in last year's Wimbledon.
While a 10-minute heat-break for women's and junior singles, and a 15-minute break for wheelchair singles was already in place, this is the first year that a 10-minute heat-break will be instituted in the men's singles.
This is a response to last year's criticism of Novak Djokovic when play wasn't suspended even though temperatures in the shade approached 40C during the 2018 tournament.
Now, if a reading of 4.0 is recorded on the Australian Open Heat Stress Scale during a men's singles match, a 10-minute break will be allowed after the third set.
#6: It's not just a Grand Slam tournament
While the clash of the best of the best is enough to keep everyone entertained, the Australian Open is not just a 2-week event for the avid
tennis fan--it's a festival. After all, this is all taking place in Melbourne.
Big-time music acts Craig David, Bastille, Dean Lewis, and Angus & Julia Stone will grace the live stage along with other headliners over the course of the tournament.
The hugely popular Coopers Saturday is also back on 19 January where Birrarung Marr gates will open and beer will be flowing freely starting at 10 am.
Check out the AO Live Stage schedule for more details.
You can also catch your favourite sports films in three unique locations at the Australian Open Sports Film Festival. Go to the official AU Open website for more details.
Finally, a fun activity for the whole family awaits you in the AO Ballpark! AO Ballpark is the ultimate summer family experience--it's a mini theme park and hub of kids entertainment onsite at the AO catering to the kids’ happy imaginations. The Ballpark is packed with fun and games for everyone!
To know more about what's in store in the AO Ballpark, click here for more details.