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Tennis Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Craig Tiley has expressed his commitment to maintaining the status of the Australian Open as the premier event in the nation’s sporting calendar by injecting significant financial investment into the tournament.

Tiley’s charge stems from a desire to counter threats from Saudi Arabia and China – nations that have been cited as threats to the future of the revered Grand Slam event.

In a move designed to keep both nations at bay, Tennis Australia (TA) has extended its contract with the Victorian government to ensure Melbourne Park retains its right to host the branded ‘Grand Slam of Asia Pacific’ for at least another two decades.

The Australian Open has developed into a billion-dollar event, and this month’s tournament attracted a Grand Slam record of 1.1 million spectators with side attractions like live entertainment, corporate meeting rooms and various recreational activities.

The tournament generates around half a billion dollars annually for Victoria, and Tiley has acknowledged the potential threats to the survival of the competition, especially from well-funded competitors.

There’s always the risk of a rival event popping up with substantial prize money. But staying ahead of the curve has been a primary objective for Tiley, who has emphasised the need for continuous growth, innovation and infrastructure development.

Steps have already been taken to keep the Australian Open at the pinnacle of the sports calendar, with innovations such as starting the event on a Sunday introduced for the first time in over a century.

Adding Sunday to the event calendar attracted over 80,000 more spectators, while the addition of ‘Party Court 6’ with a bar exemplifies the effort of the organisers to bolster the fan experience.

While the integration of Party Court 6 did not resonate with the players, who lodged complaints about rowdy spectators, Tiley has lauded the Australian Open for improving the way fans engage with the event.

Beyond injecting financial investments into the tournament, Tiley has demonstrated a multifaceted approach to staying ahead of the competition.

The Australian Open is leading the charge in innovation and has maintained its position at the forefront of the tennis world thanks to a strategic partnership forged with Infosys.

The collaboration is aimed at utilising artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to improve the fan experience and revolutionise engagement, player insights and overall digital content creation.

The Australian Open 2024 Bracket Challenge is an excellent example, inviting fans to test their predictive skills against AI.

The Infosys Match Centre makes watching tennis even better by using Gen AI Story Cards. These cards give instant and easy-to-read details about the match, making it more fun for viewers.

The Fan Zone takes a step into the future with graffiti-inspired AI art, showcasing portraits created through Infosys Topaz and providing fans with augmented reality (AR) selfies with tennis superstars.

And if that’s not enough, there was also virtual reality (VR). Fans were able to play a super exciting VR tennis match against top professionals, adding an extra layer of fun to the experience.

Infosys’s AI efforts go beyond the flashy aspects to the heart of tennis. At the 2024 Australian Open, AI actively watched matches, offering valuable insights to players and coaches.

The Win Predictor feature kept fans excited by displaying the chances of victory as the matches unfolded.

The media team also benefited as AI made it easier to share highlights quickly through the AI Shot of the Day, creating clips for social media without needing to search through footage manually.

Away from the courts, Infosys and TA are teaming up for forward-thinking projects. They are focusing on teaching AI skills to students in places like metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria and New South Wales.

This effort shows a dedication to preparing the next generation of leaders. Using Infosys Springboard for curated learning not only imparts knowledge but also gives students a sneak peek into the future of AI, helping them better understand the latest technologies.

TA’s plan to stay ahead of challenges from Saudi Arabia and China involves using new and smart ideas. These countries, which are seen as major threats to the Australian Open, are traditionally against sports betting, which is a key part of the fan experience at Grand Slam events.

However, with social media platforms such as X moving into sports betting, it could be good news for tournaments such as the Australian Open. More betting sites could take advantage of the development to collaborate with X and attract a wider customer base to their platforms.

If X develops sports betting on its platform, fans could enjoy the Australian Open not just for the on-court action but for the chance to predict winners, discuss matches with fellow fans in real time and potentially win prizes.

X’s global reach could also boost the visibility of the tournament. Integrated betting features could attract new audiences, particularly younger demographics comfortable with mobile-first experiences.

This wider viewership translates to potential sponsorships, increased prize money, and a more prestigious tournament.