You were recently in Miami at the time of the player council meetings. Following these meetings, the US Open has announced a major prizemoney boost and scheduling changes. What is your reaction to this news, and what does it mean for the sport of tennis?
Tennis Australia and the Australian Open worked hard with the players from both the ATP and WTA to offer the biggest prize purse in the history of the sport this year. Well done to both the USTA and the players on making a similar commitment and coming to this agreement. We’ve said all along that increased prize money is an issue for the sport, not just the Grand Slams, so tennis continues to grow and offer a viable career path for players.
Prior to this you were at the Indian Wells event; how does it rate on the world scale?
Right up there with the best. It is a superbly run event set in idyllic surrounds. It is very popular with the players and the organisers are constantly looking to innovate. In fact while I was there they announced major expansion plans for next year and were commencing construction the day after the men's final, so they would already be underway.
One of the big stories from Indian Wells was the form of Rafa. Fair to say he is well and truly back?
The fighting abilities of Rafa never cease to amaze and inspire. I don't think anyone who really knows him ever really doubted he would get back. But he may have even surprised himself with the high level of his play in California last week. I know he loves the event and I also know that whenever he steps on the court, he gives his all. His performance was terrific and I see people are already talking about the possibility of him winning his eighth Roland Garros title.
Another highlight was obviously the form of Juan Martin Del Potro.
Juan Martin has such a powerful game and he showed some of his US Open winning form. When he is on his game he is a genuine contender with some big weapons and it took a very determined Rafa to stop him. If he continues in this sort of form in Miami he could turn the big four into a big five!
And of course he ended Novak's winning streak
Precisely. That's how good his form is. It takes something pretty special to stop Novak when he is on a roll like he has been this year and Juan Martin found it. But expect Novak to bounce straight back. He is a phenomenal competitor
Should we be worried about Roger's back?
Roger was obviously restricted in his movement against Rafa in California. But the time off he is now going to take from the tour is not a knee-jerk reaction to that. He was always planning to take some time after Indian Wells to freshen up in body and mind. So I would say that fans should expect Roger Federer to continue to threaten at every Slam starting with Roland Garros.
Who would win a battle between Serena and Maria right now?
Good question. Maria is obviously playing very well and played a great final. In fact I don't think she dropped a set for the entire tournament. Serena will be firing in Miami and obviously starts favourite. It is always a tough one. Women's tennis is in a really interesting phase with Vika, Maria and a few others throwing down the challenge for Serena. Li Na is back on court in Miami after recovering from the injury she sustained at the AO and she was producing the sort of tennis that could see her challenge as well.
How are the Aussies travelling?
Sam Stosur was really finding some great touch until she hurt herself. Hopefully she can recover reasonably quickly because she was playing well. Marinko Matosevic was the stand out from California and it looks like he is starting to show some belief in himself and the fact he belongs on the tour and in the top 50. There were four Aussies guys who won through the first round at Indian Wells, so that was a good sign.