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The business dealings at the Australian Open were examined by Ian Cockerill of the Melbourne AGE. Features highlighted players, agents, administrators, merchandisers, directors and organizers and "the rest of the world." Cockerill, on the Open: "It may not quite be up to the other majors yet, but the gap is closing." The changes to the tournament, including the move to a hardcourt surface, the building of a new tennis center, the date change to January from the December holiday season and an expanded field of players, "have had the desired effect." Cockerill: "Where there were genuine fears that the Australian Open might lose its slam status, it is now firmly entrenched" (AGE, 2/1). MORE FROM DOWN UNDER: Cockerill adds that the WTA Tour "has irked" the ATP Tour "by being slow to respond" to its proposal of holding some joint events. ITF President Brian Tobin: "From what I can see, the men right now need the women more than the women need the men".....Merchandising highlights of the Open included Fila using now-retired Gabriella Sabatini to launch its new line, and Nike Chair Phil Knight "running a close eye over the tournament he's just bought into for the first time" (Melbourne AGE, 2/1).