Rafael Nadal to play charity opener on new Australian Open ‘Court’

Rafael Nadal is named 'Friend of the Australian Open' at the official launch of the 2015 tournament

Rafael Nadal has been named ‘Friend of the Australian Open’ at the official launch of the 2015 tournament on the refurbished Margaret Court arena at Melbourne Park.

Nadal, who is a three-times finalist at the Australian Open, beating Roger Federer to win his only title there in 2009, commented from Shanghai, where he is preparing for the penultimate Masters event of the season.

“I like to think I’ve always been friendly with the Australian Open, but I’m excited it is now official!” said Nadal.

“I’m already focused on coming back to the Australian Open in January. It was a very emotional tournament for me this year [he picked up a back injury during the final]. For me, it is important to win the Australian Open again and to achieve that, I need to continue to work hard, stay healthy and be able to compete.

“It’s a tournament I love so much, where the warm conditions are great and there is a fantastic crowd. There is a great atmosphere, the facilities are amazing, and each year they keep improving.”

Nadal will collaborate with Tennis Australia to stage a special charity event ahead of the 2015 Open on Wednesday 14 January. It will take place on the refurbished Margaret Court Arena (MCA), which has become the third show-court at Melbourne Park to boast a retractable roof.

“I’ve heard that the new roof on Margaret Court Arena is now finished and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. The Australian fans are always fantastic and I hope they’ll come and experience the finished stadium at my special charity event.”

In announcing Nadal as the first in the tournament’s ‘Friends’ concept, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley described him as “one of the most exciting sportsmen in the world today.”

He went on: “’Friends of the Australian Open’ is a new concept helping to promote Australia’s Grand Slam on the world stage. Rafa exemplifies the values we all work hard to uphold—excellence, humility, teamwork and loyalty—and it’s a coup for us to work with him to promote not just our event, but our wonderful sport, around the world.”

The refurbishment of MCA completes Stage One of the $366 million redevelopment of Melbourne Park, and will take the arena’s capacity to 7,300. It will also, according to Tiley, “weatherproof” the Australian Open:

“The redevelopment and stadium upgrades mean we could technically complete all Australian Open matches even with a fortnight of solid rain.

“We are very proud to lead the way as the only Grand Slam with three retractable roof venues, and MCA will feature what we believe to be the world’s fastest moving stadium roof, which will open or close in just five minutes.”

Single session tickets for the “Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific” go on sale today.

Tickets for the other tournaments in the Australian Open Series—the Brisbane International, Hopman Cup, Apia International Sydney, Hobart International and Adelaide’s World Tennis Challenge—go on sale on Wednesday.

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