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).