Serena Williams will make her return to the Australian Open in January.
Serena Williams will make her return to the Australian Open in January.

Serena’s return, new rules, monster prizemoney

AUSTRALIAN Open officials have rolled out the red carpet to the world's best players with a record $60.5 million prizemoney and upgraded facilities - and a vow to address slow play and on-court coaching.

Announcing the return of Serena Williams for the first time since 2017, Open officials repeated calls to the sport's powerbrokers to "progress discussions" on coaching in the wake of the American's US Open meltdown.

Williams' implosion was, in part, triggered by a warning after her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was spotted signalling by umpire Carlos Ramos during a fraught final.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has again urged stakeholders to find resolution on the issue of on-court coaching - a practice allowed at several levels of the game but banned in grand slam battle.

"Coaching is an issue we've all spoken a lot about over the past couple of months, which is good," Tiley said.

"As a sport, tennis needs to decide the best way forward.

"We'll continue the on-court coaching trial during qualifying - for both men and women - as we progress discussions with the many stakeholders involved.

"The sport needs to have a consistent approach to all issues around coaching."

With prizemoney to rise by 10 per cent on this year's $55 million purse, the January 14-27 tournament will also feature -

* 25-second serve clock for all main draw matches

* Electronic review system on all 16 match courts

* Maintaining 32 seeds in the main draw and in qualifying for both men and women

* Heat stress Index to replace extreme heat policy

* Increased qualifying draw for women, from 96 to 128 players with qualifying to start January 8.

* Continued trial of on-court coaching in qualifying.

* High-profile practice matches to be held at Margaret Court Arena on each day of qualifying.

Roger Federer won the 2018 Australian Open
Roger Federer won the 2018 Australian Open

"We've always prided ourselves on listening to the players, and this year we've taken our consultation to a whole new level," Tiley said.

"Our team has spent a lot of time this year talking to players, coaches and their teams about what's important to them, what they like and what changes they want to see.

"From these discussions, held at tournaments around the world, we've come up with some changes we know the players want, including the serve clock and electronic review on all match courts, making conditions more consistent across the precinct.

Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley launches the 2019 campaign
Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley launches the 2019 campaign

"We've increased the women's qualifying draw to 128, in line with the men's qualifying, removing what was really an historical anomaly, and we're starting qualifying a day earlier.

"The 25-second serve clock will be introduced for all matches - we know there's a move to speed up play and we'll continue to work with the players on the best ways to do this."

Tiley said the 2019 Open would christen a four-level "player pod" on the eastern side of Rod Laver Arena.

The space features "a full concierge service" with 375 lockers in each of men's and men's change rooms as well as larger treatment rooms, restaurants and other services.

Tiley expects the top 100 men and women to contest the tournament.



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