Long-serving logo: the serving man will make way for a new look next summer. Photo: Jessica Shapiro The new logo hasn’t been revealed yet.
After more than two decades, the distinctive Australian Open logo has made its last centre court appearance, with the so-called “serving man” set to join 20-year veteran Lleyton Hewitt among the familiar figures in grand slam retirement next January at Melbourne Park.
The original silhouette was believed to have been modelled on former tour player and Australian Open deputy tournament director Peter Johnston, with a stylistic nod to two-time champion Stefan Edberg. Various versions of the existing logo, including a skinny late 90s edition and evolving colour schemes, have been synonymous with the event since 1995.
“It’s a bit of a refresh,” said Jo Juler, the AO’s head of marketing. “Serving man was never made for the digital age, he was designed for print, and he doesn’t translate very well.
“And obviously having a serving man representing a tournament that is equal for men and women is no longer relevant. We are and have always been a platform about equal pay for men and women, and about 65 per cent of our attendees are women, and as you know, coming to the tennis every year, it’s not just tennis any more; our fans when we do patron research just talk about this amazing atmosphere, and how it’s fun and it’s Melbourne, it’s not just about tennis.
“So we felt for all those reasons that it was time to retire him. He will stay, he doesn’t completely disappear, he’ll make some little cameos during the tournament. He’s still part of our history and we still really love him, he’s really quirky.”
The exact origins of the logo, says Juler, have become something of an urban myth. “It’s quite funny; someone said it was Ivan Lendl, someone said Stefan Edberg and Peter (Johnston), so we actually went through all the files and to be perfectly honest, we don’t really know where he came from but he’s there, he’s part of the history.
“He’ll keep making a few appearances digitally and you’ll see him walking around the site. He’ll come to life; he’s sort of become a bit of a motif, a bit of an ambassador.”
Next: how to break the news to Johnston? The, well, long-serving tennis administrator recalls being part of the original sketch and design all those years ago. “I hadn’t heard, but, if that’s true, it had a good innings,” quipped Johnston, whose latest role is as tournament director of the Kooyong Classic. “We all have to go out to pasture some time.”
So what now for the AO brand, with serving man finally hanging up his (superceded) racquet? “Top secret, top secret – you can’t ask me those questions!” laughs Juler. “We’ve devised a system around what people think and feel about the Australian Open, and it’s just a nice, fresh new look. We’re staying with blue – it’s still our primary colour, I can confirm that. And you’ll like, I can tell you. You will like it.”