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Volume 24 No. 112

Events and Attractions

Australian Open ticket sales "are tracking at record levels less than a week out from the start of the Melbourne Park grand slam," according to Linda Pearce of the Melbourne AGE. Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said, "We're up more than we've ever been in the history of the event, more than 8 per cent year on year, so things are working. These are our strengths and we've got to keep making our strengths stronger.'' Total attendance at the '13 Australian Open was 684,457 -- 1,549 short of the '12 record -- but Tiley "was cautious when asked about the chances of reaching 700,000 at this month's edition." While pre-sales "are strong, the greatest variable is the number of walk-up ground pass patrons." Tiley said, ''We're tracking significantly that way (towards 700,000) with ticket sales, but to get those numbers we would need 14 days of good weather. We've been lucky the last few years, we've really had good weather, and we would hope it would continue that way. The forecast is OK." He added, "It's entirely weather dependent. So we'd have to have 14 days, 25 sessions of great weather, and also good match-ups, and your stars getting into the second week. So if those things all happen, then it's achievable" (Melbourne AGE, 1/7). In Melbourne, Peter Wolfe writes, "With a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt and a host of homegrown talent flying the flag for Australia and almost all top 100 men and women vying for glory, the record may tumble." Tiley said, "I'm extremely pleased with the position we are in a week out from the event'' (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 1/7).

MADE IN AMERICA: USA TODAY's Douglas Robson notes as the '14 Grand Slam season kicks off next week, the "prospects for American tennis remain cloudy." The draw in Melbourne will "have no legitimate U.S. male title contenders." Though top-ranked Serena Williams is favored, the "improving cast of young American women behind her is unproven at the elite level." This "state of uncertainty about the USA's tennis future comes several years after USTA officials, distressed by the diminishing pool of American talent, determined to raise the ante." Last year was "the worst in history for U.S. men's tennis." No American male player "advanced past the third round at any of the four majors, a first in 45 years of Open-era competition." Only John Isner (No.14) and Sam Querrey (No.46) "finished among the top 50 men's players." But there are "signs of progress: There were 11 American women in the top 100 in 2013, the most of any country." Many of the "rising talents, such as Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Jamie Hampton, have received on-and-off coaching and assistance from the USTA" (USA TODAY, 1/7).

The Jan. 25 Ducks-Kings Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium "is a gamble" because it "leaves out most of the things that matter in outdoor hockey: bone-chilling wind, water and air," according to Etan Vlessing of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. But the league "will be front and center" in L.A. for the event. NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said that "mixing NHL brawn with Hollywood beauty promises an event more than a league game." Vlessing noted the league will "bring glitz to Dodger Stadium by enlisting the support of avid Hollywood hockey players like producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Barry Josephson, sports agent Pat Brisson, and actor Cuba Gooding Jr." Additionally, KISS is "already booked to perform at the first-ever outdoor NHL game in Southern California." Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille and MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "are also getting behind the Dodger Stadium game." NHL COO John Collins said Robitaille and Leiweke "have a good relationship with the Hollywood community, and that only grows." He added, "Hollywood will want to be there because they'll be part of an event" (, 1/3).

WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT:'s Jason Notte wrote "something seemed off" with this year's Bridgestone Winter Classic. For what has "become the NHL's premier event, there was a sense that the league wasn't pulling out all the stops." Country group Zac Brown Band performed the national anthem, and fans are "still wondering what they were doing there." Beyond the NHL and Verizon's ads for its GameCenter streaming service, there "wasn't much tucked amid the game's myriad commercial breaks to keep viewers from popping in on bowl games or just about anything else." The event "deserves better." A Winter Classic needs to "bring a little more than cold, snow and second-tier entertainment if it's going to cement its position as one of the biggest events in all of sports." With a "little more attention, the NHL could strengthen the Winter Classic to the point where advertisers not only are compelled to spend significant money on it but to make commercials exclusively for it." The league also could "broaden its Winter Classic offerings to include better coverage of the alumni game, more parties and events in the host city and some top-tier talent for its music and presentation portions" (, 1/4).