As world-class tennis (and fan favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis) returns to The Drive, we speak to Tournament Director and hometown hero Alicia Molik about how locals can make the most of this spectacular week-long event on their doorstep.
What’s in store at the Adelaide International
Sixteen top-20 players have been confirmed for this year’s Adelaide International, which will take over The Drive from 8-13 January. A combined pro women’s (WTP 500) and men’s (ATP 250) tournament, more than 170 tennis players from around the globe will compete across the week for a total prize pool of $2.5 million. The women’s tournament will feature 30 singles players and 16 doubles pairs, while the men’s tournament will have 28 singles players and 24 doubles pairs.
But the Adelaide International is not just about awesome on-court action – it also offers live music, entertainment, bars, food trucks and a chance for kids to try tennis for themselves at The Drive’s new facilities. Plus it’s an advantage (see what we did there?) for the locals stuck working in city offices this summer, providing the perfect destination to wind down with friends after work. With tickets from $20, and The Drive just a stroll away from the CBD, there’s no better place to get among the action on a balmy January night.
Alicia Molik comes home
Presiding over this epic event will be new Tournament Director Alicia Molik, who says being part of the Adelaide International is really something special.
Adelaide is where Alicia was brought up, it’s where her family still live, and it’s very much still her hometown. “I grew up in Adelaide and I can’t remember how many trips to The Drive I took between the ages of nine and 17,” she says. “I basically lived there on its tennis courts, so I’ve got some brilliant and very fond memories of the place.”
“With the Adelaide International I’ve come full circle. It’s a real privilege to come back and be a part of such a wonderful event. This is a chance for me to give back to the community that supported me throughout my on-court career and still to this day.”
A stellar career
As a professional tennis player, Alicia reached a career-high singles ranking of world number eight and a doubles ranking of world number six. She’s a two-times Grand Slam doubles winner, and brought home Bronze in singles tennis from the Athens Olympics, becoming the first and only Australian tennis player to win an Olympic medal.
After her retirement from the pro circuit, she served as an inspirational captain of the Australian Billie Jean King Cup team for a decade, mentoring players like Ash Barty and leading the Aussies to two finals. Just last month, Alicia was awarded the Spirit of Tennis Award for her incredible contribution to the sport – both on and off the court.
A world-class tournament
Major events like the Adelaide International are not just about fun and games – they’re also important money-spinners for our tourism and hospitality industries. Events in 2023 – including the Adelaide International – are expected to be worth more than $400 million for SA’s economy, as they attracted interstate and international visitors in droves. The 2024 Adelaide International adds to South Australia’s ‘summer of sport’, which also features the Santos Tour Down Under and the Adelaide Test match against the West Indies this month.
Alicia is excited about the potential of the Adelaide International to keep growing, attracting even more visitors and big-name players. “This is a world-class event and the goal is to continue drawing world-class players to the Adelaide International, making it the only event that players truly want to play in as preparation for the Australian Open.”
The host city with the most
She says Adelaide has always been a destination that players enjoy visiting. “There’s an ease to playing here – they can stroll from their accommodation over the River Torrens bridge and they’re at the courts within five minutes. Then they’ve got everything they need for warm up, preparation and match play, including the practice courts and locker rooms – The Drive’s facilities are really state-of-the-art.”
Alicia says Adelaide’s welcoming atmosphere and great facilities bring out the best in the players’ tennis and the crowds pick up on that. “Adelaide makes the tennis very fun and friendly – that’s what we really do well,” she says.
“The planning of the city makes it a welcoming place for any visitors, international or interstate. And then to have the wineries only an hour away means it’s a super quick destination for the sport lovers and food lovers all in one.” She says that means the Adelaide International is perfectly placed to offer sports fans not just world-class tennis, but a total holiday experience.
The Drive’s state government-funded redevelopment is what makes the Adelaide International possible, says Alicia. The $48 million centre court makeover was debuted at the 2023 event and includes new northern and eastern stands, a new canopy roof over the sunken show court, and a premier function space.
“We want this event to go from strength to strength, and we want to draw the best players in the world. So when you have a facility that you can clearly outline to players more than meets their needs it makes it incredibly attractive to them. Adelaide is an easy destination to sell, but to now have this facility on top of that makes it really appealing.”
The Goldilocks of stadiums
It’s also a fantastic venue for the fans, who can enjoy a centre court that’s basically the Goldilocks of stadiums – “just big enough and small enough at the same time,” Alicia says. “The highlight of the event is that it’s such intimate surroundings in centre court. When you’re spectating, you’re extremely close to the players. Every seat has a great vantage point.”
The redevelopment also means it never gets too hot for spectators, even in January. “The roof over the top of The Drive makes it very comfortable,” she says. “Yes, it’s an outdoor event, but the fans sitting in the stands are protected from the sun and still have the cool breeze filtering through.”
The star-studded line-up
The field is looking fantastic for the Adelaide International this year, with hometown hero and 2022 champion Thanasi Kokkinakis set to be a fan fave. “I’ve watched Thanasi play in Adelaide a number of times, and the roof gets lifted off,” Alicia says. “Aussies love watching other Aussies succeed, so you do feel an extra energy coming from the crowd if it’s an Aussie playing in the stadium.”
As well as Kokkinakis, fellow Aussie and world number 40 Alexei Popyrin is another confirmed player set to raise the roof. Three top-20 men – Tommy Paul, Nicolas Jarry and Ugo Humbert – have also joined the lineup. Other players to look out for include young Italian up-and-comer Lorenzo Musetti, world number 24 Sebastian Korda and returning semi-finalist Jack Draper from the UK.
Meanwhile, the women’s field promises fierce competition and some epic rallies. Three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic are part of a lineup that’s set to electrify the stadium. The packed field includes thirteen of the world’s top 20 women, including world number four Elena Rybakina and world number five Jessica Pegula. Wimbledon singles champion and world number seven Marketa Vondrousova is also confirmed, along with two Grand Slam champions, world number 10 Barbora Krejcikova and world number 13 Jelena Ostapenko.
How to get involved – for every kind of spectator
While avid fans will be able to sit courtside every day and night to soak up all the pro tennis they can handle, there’ll also be a lot more going on at the 2024 Adelaide International – everything from live music, entertainment, bars and food trucks will be on hand to add to the festive atmosphere.
If you’ve got kids, mark 8 January in your calendars now. The Monday of the Adelaide International is Family Day, with free entry for children. Alicia says there’ll be so much happening off-court that you can have a great day out without having to stay in your stadium seats for hours – something every parent loves to hear. As well as the live kids’ entertainment, there will be the chance for children to get rid of excess energy by playing some tennis of their own. Even if they’ve never picked up a racquet before, help will be on hand for beginners.
For the child-free, Alicia suggests getting a group of friends together after lunch, shopping or work in town and walking over to The Drive for an affordable evening’s entertainment.
“Even for people who haven’t seen a lot of tennis, pop down and grab a ticket – I guarantee you’ll love it,” Alicia says. “Once you have a taste of it, as a spectator, you will be coming back.” If you want a really special experience, there are also premium ticket options to give you the best possible view of the action in luxurious comfort, plus access to exclusive hospitality venues serving up all your drinks and gourmet snacks.
Find more information and to buy tickets for the Adelaide International here.