After almost two weeks of hard-court action under the blistering sun of Melbourne at the Australian open, we have just finally arrived at the ultimate game of the tournament, the final match for men between the defending champion and 8-time winner, Novak Djokovic and the fresh and talented Russian Daniil Medvedev.
This year’s competition has experienced sporting highs and lows. The highlight of the women’s game was the success of Naomi Osaka, who has continued to dominate and cement her place in the women’s game by winning the women’s final, defeating Serena Williams in the semi-final and Jennifer Brady in the final – both in two straight sets.
The failure of Serena Williams’ attempt to win yet another Grand slam dovetailed into her emotional-laden press conference where she left in tears.
On the men side though, we were entertained by the outstanding and Cinderella-like run of Aslav Karatsev to the semi-final before losing to Djokovic in his debut season (the first man to do so in the Open era). Another is the loss of Rafael Nadal to Stephanos Tsitsipas. An epic comeback in a five-set thriller, with Nadal losing after being two-set ahead-one of the rarest occurrences in sport!
Irrespective of who wins in the men’s final, it has been a great event, with a truly remarkable effort in organization by the sport management body. Their effort, however, will not garner them commensurate revenue though.
The event organizers – Tennis Australia (TA) already needed to deplete its cash reserve of about $60 million to $80 million and even had to request for a bailout relief from the Australian government job keeper program, according to their 2020 annual report. This was of course triggered by the loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the sport may have experience riches of talent emerging and new breakout stars, but in terms of cold cash, the tournament organisers will end up in the red. Many things are responsible for that.
The first reason is the increase in prize money. The prize money increased marginally (by 0.70% compared to last year) to an all-time high of $71 million prize money, with an effort made to reduce equality of revenue, as the percentage increase tilted more toward lower rank players and those that crash out in the earlier stages of the tournament.
The second reason is due to the massive effort to achieve a sporting bubble for obvious health reasons which involves quarantining the over 100 elite players coming from all over the world in expensive hotels, providing biosecurity measures and other logistics.
The third reason is the reduced number of spectators due to the COVID-19 protocol only means there are less revenue from gate taking while the number of sponsors is significantly reduced with some even seeking discount due to the delay of the tournament from January to February (a delay that was necessitated by the need to quarantine players for weeks before the commencement)
But while the accountants crunch their figures, and count their losses, the rest of us can relax and enjoy the game.
• Dele Ayoko is a multiple award-winning banker, and a Chartered Accountant. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Nairametrics. You can follow him on Twitter @delexxyy