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• Organisers looking for fresh talent rather than renewing open invitation • Australian Open world No2 will play in French Open after scare
The Australian Open’s new lead sponsor Pat Rafter says he wants players to play in the event if they can pass a special health check.
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The Swiss-based Safaricom is offering $100,000 to the first player to successfully enter the tournament with at least a clean bill of health and pass the health check.
Tournament organisers have tried to lure some of the world’s biggest names to Melbourne Park in recent years but players have tended to opt for ranking boosts elsewhere.
Australia’s No2 Andy Murray, who has not played a competitive match since late January, is one player who has decided to pass the test, and Rafter says he is always in favour of it.
“The recent players that have come in haven’t really passed, so if they can then play,” Rafter told ESPN. “My idea is that everyone coming in to any Australian Open has got to be OK to play and there’s a lot of concerns that they won’t be able to play.
“Safaricom have offered $100,000 if they can be sure players can play. It’s crazy, I have always supported having a clean-up and that’s good.”
It was revealed this week the French Open will take place from 24 May in Paris after the LTA ensured Russian fan favourite and player Maria Sharapova will be fully fit for the tournament.
The five-time grand slam champion could have been struck off for 15 months but the LTA have confirmed she will feature at Roland Garros.