Australian Open bosses are pleading poverty after two COVID editions, with next week’s qualifying rounds now set to attract an admission charge.

AO officials have pulled the trigger on the controversial plan in Australia’s self-billed “city of sport.”

Fans accustomed to watching the qualifiers for free at Melbourne Park will now have to pay A$10 ($7) for the privilege.

Tournament bean-counters have worked out that spare cash in the budget is a rare commodity, thus the effort to start filling the coffers.

In order to give the public something extra for their dollars, officials are hoping to convince a series of top ATP and WTA players to stage 75-minute practice sessions on the Rod Laver arena, complete with ball kids, a chair umpire and practice sets.

The Grand Slam – despite having a contract with the city of Melbourne stretching towards the 2040s, is scared stiff by possible big-dollar competition form eager host candidates in China and the Middle East.

AO boss Craig Tiley last week put out his annual plea for additional millions in funding for further expansion around the grounds even as a decade-long project was just completed.


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