Sydney: Working hard to make this edition of the Australian Open a grand success, Tournament Director Graig Riley said on Thursday that he is always open to 'innovation' in the game and was one of the first people to back Mahesh Bhupathi's ambitious IPTL dream.
CEO of Tennis Australia, Riley believes that innovation is the key to grow in any sphere and said he saw that spark in Bhupathi's Indian Premier Tennis League, which was a success in it's inaugural edition in 2014.
"I was one of the first to have a chat with Mahesh (Bhupathi) when he thought of floating the idea. We have publicly stated our support for IPTL. Infact, we had 5 Australian players and one Australian coach in the inaugural edition," Riley said.
"We encourage our players to participate in it. We believe, more tennis is good tennis. Tennis in our region in India, in China, in South-East Asia and in Australia we should get together and add more tennis," he added.
Riley is also keen to launch fast-paced tennis in the Twenty20 cricket mould and has already kick-started the idea.
"We are a business which likes to move fast, we like to innovate and like to grow. We have launched the new short format for the world of tennis on Monday night new short. The best player of the world Roger Federer was with us. It extends to four games and we had Rafael Nadal playing on Wednesday. So we will be launching this shorter format and this is going to be tennis' version of Twenty20 cricket," Riley said.
Talking about India's connection with the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year which is slated to begin on January 19, Riley said that a strong Indian fan base helps them to connect well.
"There is a strong Indian fan base in Australia. Players like Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes and Sania Mirza always draw big crowds. Indians are very educated when it comes to tennis. The number of Indian fans growing over the years and we have had a great experience with them," he said.
Trying to connect more with the Asian audience, the Australian Open will also see reigning champion from China Li Na, who retired from the game last year, open the event.
"We have close partnerships with the Asia Pacific region. We already have events and activities planned in China. We are also planning partnerships in India. On the opening night we will invite Chinese tennis legend Li Na, who has retired from the game. She won the Australian Open last year and represents 80 million people and will open the event this year," Riley said.