FANS at Rod Laver Arena had a chance to get up close and personal with five high-profile players yesterday. But it came at a price.
Amelie Mauresmo, Anastasia Myskina, Jonas Bjorkman, Todd Woodbridge and Paradorn Srichaphan took UNICEF buckets into the crowd before the night session began to collect money for Asian tsunami victims.
Paradorn is from Thailand, where nearly 5,300 people were killed when the Dec 26 tsunamis struck his country. More than 167,000 died in Asia from the disaster.
The players signed autographs, posed for photos and had quick chats with the fans but mostly only after they parted with some of their coins or paper bills for the bucket.
Paradorn moved around so quickly his security minders couldn't keep pace. His bucket was full of notes.
He said nobody declined an offering when he put the bucket in front of them.
It shows everybody cares it's important for me, because people in my country have been affected,'' said Paradorn.
ROD Laver's wife is seriously ill in California and the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion will be unable to attend the 100th anniversary of the Australian Open, organisers said yesterday.
Laver, an Australian who won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments in 1962 and in 1969, was planning to attend the tournament with his son and daughter in the second week to present the trophy to the men's singles champion on Jan. 30.
But Laver, 66, informed the tournament that his wife, Mary, has a serious illness that will prevent him from leaving his home in Carlsbad, California. The illness was not disclosed.
This is obviously a very distressing time for Rod, Mary and their family and our thoughts are with them all,'' Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard said in a statement yesterday.
We hope that Mary makes a strong recovery.''
The centre court at Melbourne Park is named Rod Laver Arena, in his honour.