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Seeding in Grand Slams

2010 January 31
by Robert Macdonald

The Australian Open concluded on the weekend. The Swiss master Roger Federer prevailed in three sets (6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11)) against the Scot, Andy Murray; while the night before, Serena Williams ended the fairytale comeback of Belgin Justin Henin in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 6-2).

New attendance records were set (653,860, up 8%) , and As a moral if not economic boost for us locals, Tennis Australia (governing body for Tennis in this nation), in conjunction with the Victorian State Government, announced a plan for a $363 million AUD redevelopment and extension of Melbourne Park, the home of the Australian Open since 1988.

However, some newspaper and radio coverage in Melbourne has suggested the Open was a bit lacklustre this year.

Rising attendances (a new record of 653,820, up 8% on 2009) and record day-night crowds on the Wed and Sat of the first week would suggest otherwise, but I agree that ‘the feel, the vibe, the atmosphere’ was lacking until we reached the finals. Perhaps this was caused by the bad weather at the start of the Open – rain instead of the usual stifling heat was an unusual start to the tournament? Maybe the slightly later start than in years gone by (a week later than iat the start of the 2000s) means more Melburnians are back into work mode after the Christmas break? Maybe the local broadcaster, the Seven Network, did an awful job? (They have been almost universally whacked for a shocking telecast this year.) Perhaps attendance growth can be explained by the great missing variable of sports economics research – (the compounding effect of) marketing/advertising expenditure?

So, (a) if we could measure ‘enthusiasm’, (b) has the seeding of 32 players (up from of the 16 seeds prior to 2001) influenced this variable, (c) how? And (d) if attendance is rising, does it really matter, or will there be a lagged detrimental impact upon attendance?

Julio del Corral addressed some related issues in the Dec 2009 J Sports Eco, suggesting a significant reduction of competitive balance in men’s Grand Slam tennis (but not for the women) since the 32 seeds were introduced. Check it out.

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