Channel Nine went all in on the tennis, forking out half a billion dollars to secure the Australian Open rights. Here’s what the Nick Kyrgios bombshell means for them.

The only people feeling worse than Nick Kyrgios right now are the television executives at Channel Nine who shelled out a fortune to secure the rights to an Australian Open that hardly anyone will bother watching now.

After ending their long partnership with cricket, Channel Nine went all in on tennis – forking out an eye-watering $500 million to secure an extension of their Australian Open broadcast rights until 2030.

That might have looked like a pretty good deal when Ash Barty won the Australian Open women’s singles title last year then Nick Kyrgios made the final at Wimbledon. And Nine decided to launch their entire year off the back of the big-serving Canberran.

But the sporting cycle has a habit of turning quickly and just as soon as things went up, they came straight back down – at a rate of knots.

With Barty announcing her retirement – and now expecting a baby – Kyrgios was left to fly the flag.

Whether you love or hate his bad-mannered antics, Kyrgios is still box-office gold because people can’t take their eyes off him, but that counts for nothing when he’s not playing.

So when he announced his withdrawal from the Australian Open, the loudest groans were understandably from Channel Nine’s headquarters in North Sydney.

The spin doctors will be in overdrive now trying to convince everyone that this year’s Australian Open is still worth watching but they’re only kidding themselves because it is looming as a complete flop.

No Ash Barty, no Nick Kyrgios, no Roger Federer, no Serena Williams, no Venus Williams, no Carlos Alcaraz, no Naomi Osaka, no Ajla Tomljanovic, no Simona Halep.

And the list of absentees goes on, making a complete mockery of the absurd claim by Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley that this is the best field ever assembled for the tournament.

Tiley lost all his credibility last year with his botched handling of the Novak Djokovic vaccination saga. But even by his standards, his comments about this year’s tournament really were ridiculous.

Not only do they raise more questions about how much longer he should remain in his job but they also raise concerns about how much longer the Australian Open can be played in January.

For years, players have been begging for the tournament to be moved to a different time of the year – to avoid the worst of the scorching Australian summer heat and to get a longer rest period between seasons to rest their aching bodies and minds.

But their pleas have gone unanswered even though the high casualty rate among top players at the Australian Open each year is proof of the ludicrous timing of the event.

The lame excuse from Tennis Australia officials is that it’s just too difficult to switch dates because it would need the approval of a wide range of stakeholders, including broadcasters.

Don’t expect Channel Nine to vote for change even though they’ve been sold a lemon for this year’s tournament.

It’s not just the lower numbers watching the tennis that will sting the executives.

Although most of the summer is not counted in the annual ratings period, the huge audiences that tennis normally attracts also gives Channel Nine a chance to spruik their upcoming programs.

But with less people tuning in to watch tennis this year, those numbers are also likely to be impacted.

Originally published as Australian Open 2023: Channel 9’s $500m tennis gamble backfires after Nick Kyrgios withdrawal

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