Tuesday October 5, 08:08 PM
Agassi coming back Down Under
The centenary Australian Open will be graced by Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova and a historic men's night final.
Agassi's bows to a packed crowd after losing an epic semi-final to Marat Safin in January prompted speculation he had played at Melbourne Park for the last time.
But the four-time Open champ has committed to at least one more year on the circuit and wife Steffi Graf confirmed recently he was coming back Down Under.
The 48-year-old Navratilova's initial response after losing the 2004 Australian mixed doubles final with Leander Paes seemed unequivocal.
"Losing in a final stinks - it's almost better to lose earlier," the ageless legend said at the time.
"But at the same time, it's nice to be on that stage and be able to say goodbye properly."
But she has had a change of heart and will again enter the doubles competitions.
"What I heard was that she was potentially going to do a bigger commentating role (with Channel Seven) but because of her on-court duties she's not going to," Open chief executive Paul McNamee said on Tuesday at the 2005 tournament launch.
The situation surrounding Australian-turned-Serb Jelena Dokic is less clear.
Dokic has not played at Melbourne Park since falling out with organisers in 2001 after claims by her father Damir that the draw had been rigged.
The former world No.4 planned to end her Australian exile this year, only to withdraw at the last moment saying her preparation was inadequate.
Since then Dokic's ranking has slipped to 43 and she hasn't won a tour match since April.
"Unfortunately she's really struggling with her tennis," said McNamee.
She'd be really welcome if she did come, but I've had no definitive word."
The biggest change for the 2005 Open is a first-ever men's singles night final starting at 7.30pm (AEDT) on January 30.
That moves it into a better time zone for Asian and European TV viewers, although it will take place in the middle of the night in the United States.
Both men's semi-finals have been played at night for several years.
McNamee said there was no plan to move the women's semis and finals from its current daytime slots.
Total prizemoney has been increased by $100,000 to $19.1 million, while the price of finals tickets has risen $20 to $145.
Andre Agassi forever