Quiet please… the Australian Open (AO) tennis tournament is all set to smash its way into the metaverse with a unique blockchain-project double. Yep, no visa required for this one, Novak.

It’s a world-first art, sport and crypto mash-up with the AO becoming the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to get involved in both the NFT (non-fungible token) and metaversal side of the industry.

In partnership with one of the crypto industry’s leading metaverse* projects – Decentraland – the Aussie Open is creating a virtual event, as well as releasing a collection of 6,776 NFTs that have utility including digitised connection with small sections of the real court surfaces of the tournament.

To create the NFTs, the AO has teamed up with blockchain studio and metaverse specialists Run it Wild, along with Web3 advisory and strategists Rarer Things.

(*Wait… “the metaverse”… what’s that again? Find out here.)


Art Balls – what’s all the fuzz about?

Dubbed “Art Balls”, the NFT collection is a generative collectible art project designed by local and international artists and linked to live tournament data, according to the AO.

Generative NFT projects typically use an algorithmic combination of various different traits, and the Art Balls are no exception, featuring different colour schemes, designs and textures, including differences in the appearance of the fuzz on the ball.

Probably the most unique thing about the digitised tennis balls, though, is the fact that each one’s metadata will be linked to a 19cm x 19cm plot of each AO tennis court surface. If the winning shot from any of the 400+ matches lands on that plot, the NFT metadata will be updated in real time to incorporate the match info.

Data pulled to match the NFTs will come from the same line-calling tech used to judge AO matches’ in-game points.

NFT owners will also receive an airdrop with footage of the winning point, virtual wearables and Australian Open merch, according to a press release shared with Stockhead.

Additionally, when one of the 11 championship points lands on a plot, the NFT owner of that plot can claim and receive the championship point tennis ball from the match.

The AO Tournament director Craig Tiley described the non-fungible token collection as “an opportunity to be part of the 2022 Australian Open in a way never before available”.

“Combining real-time court data with NFTs has never been attempted before and will provide incredible ways for global tennis fans to engage as NFT holders in the AO,” Tiley continued.


Lobbing into the metaverse

The famous Aussie tennis tournament’s collaboration with Decentraland, meanwhile, will incorporate a virtual version of the AO precinct and courts to explore.

Virtually there: inside the AO’s Decentraland-based precinct. (Image courtesy of the Australian Open)

Guess this is the next best thing to being there for hardcore tennis fans – according to the AO, they’ll be able to wander their Decentraland avatar about the virtual precinct, complete challenges, view historic AO content and interact with players and other fans.

Rod Laver Arena, metaverse style. (Image courtesy of the Australian Open)

“We want the AO to be the world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event, and with the unique challenges fans have faced getting to Melbourne, we’ve fast-tracked our launch into the metaverse,” said Tennis Australia Project Manager Ridley Plummer.

“Taking the AO into the metaverse is an important step to provide truly global access to our great event,” added Plummer.

The Australian Open runs from January 17 to January 30. The AO Art Ball NFTs are minting on January 13, priced at 0.067 ETH (which is about US$22.5 or roughly AUD$16 at the time of writing). Head here to learn more.