Australian Open's extraordinary win after Novak Djokovic scandal

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·Sports Editor
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Novak Djokovic, pictured here with Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley after winning the Australian Open in 2015.
Novak Djokovic poses with Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley after winning the Australian Open in 2015. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

If Tennis Australia's desperate attempt to get Novak Djokovic into the Australian Open was about TV ratings and ticket sales, it looks like they needn't have worried.

The 2022 Australian Open is devoid of some serious star power, with Djokovic's deportation coming after Roger Federer and Serena Williams had already announced their withdrawals.

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Tennis Australia were understandably desperate to ensure that Djokovic was allowed to play, despite the World No.1's refusal to get vaccinated.

But after initially being granted a medical exemption, Djokovic had his visa cancelled and was deported from the country in a huge body blow for Australian Open organisers.

However some of the TV audience numbers from the first week of the Australian Open are starting to emerge, and they show that viewers aren't switching off just because Djokovic isn't playing.

According to The Age, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis' doubles clash with Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar on Sunday afternoon drew an average TV audience on Channel Nine of 280,000 viewers in Melbourne and 197,000 in Sydney.

According to Channel Nine, those numbers are usually only seen during singles matches in prime-time involving the world's top players.

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis' remarkable run to the doubles quarter-finals is said to be drawing the same sort of TV numbers as Ash Barty and Rafa Nadal's singles matches.

Channel Nine has won the rankings battle every night of the Australian Open so far, beating close rivals Seven and Ten.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here in the Australian Open doubles.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open doubles. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

And according to TV insiders, the Djokovic scandal may have actually boosted TV audiences rather than the opposite.

“The Djokovic saga is nothing but good news for Nine,” Ben Willee, media director of Spinach Advertising, told Mumbrella last week.

“Anything that generates more attention and speculation for an event is money-can’t-buy free publicity."

Steve Allen of Pearman Media also told Mumbrella that the likes of Djokovic, Federer and Serena don't really affect the TV ratings as much as Australian players.

"Both the male and female imports don’t make any meaningful difference to the ratings. The catalyst for better ratings is how far the Aussies go," Allen said.

On the Djokovic scandal, Allen said: "It’s millions of dollars worth of publicity that concentrates people’s minds to say, ‘Hey, the Australian Open is happening on Nine, and you can watch it next week’”.

Channel Nine's ratings win despite Novak Djokovic absence

With Barty surging into the quarter-finals for the fourth-consecutive year and the extraordinary doubles form of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, Tennis Australia and Channel Nine will be laughing.

Alex de Minaur also made it to the fourth round, while young outsiders Maddison Inglis and Chris O'Connell shocked the world by making it to the third round.

According to Roger Rasheed, the absence of Djokovic and co has actually sparked more interest in the Australian Open.

“It has been a very, very high quality Australian Open and it’s quite interesting ... for the first time the fans are able to see all the different athletes, all the different characters in the game,” he said on the Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday.

"Because normally at every major for the last 15 or so years we have totally focused on Roger, Rafa, Novak and Serena. They’ve been the daily talking points, they’ve been the show.

“It’s been brilliant to have them, who wouldn’t have wanted them? But right now for the first time ... we only have Rafa in there ... and Marin Cilic was the only other player in the (men’s) draw that was a grand slam champion.

“We’re just talking about different people, we’re seeing their character. They’re prominent on interviews and the media that goes out and it’s been colourful for the tournament.”

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