• The NFTs will be minted on Ethereum
  • The Australian Open plans to stream a virtual tennis tournament in Decentraland

The Australian Open (AO) appears likely to have to make do without world no. 1 Novak Djokovic after the tennis star was refused entry into the country due to COVID restrictions on Wednesday. But the winning shots of those who do compete later this month will be featured in a collection of 6,776 “Art Balls” NFTs as a part of an initiative to “be the first grand slam to enter the metaverse.”

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

“The AO has always been seen as one of the most innovative sporting events in the world and this project is just another example of our team pushing the boundaries to provide our fans with better access and engagement with the AO,” Tiley said in a statement. 

The NFTs, a digital collectible that verifies ownership on the blockchain, will be linked to live tournament data, according to the AO.

Each NFT’s metadata will be linked to a plot of a tennis court surface in the real-life tournament. If the winning shot from a match in the AO lands on that plot, the NFT metadata will be updated in real-time to reflect the match’s outcomes, according to marketing materials sent to Blockworks.

The AO will also stream the tournament in the 3D virtual reality platform Decentraland beginning on Jan. 17. Users will be able to explore a digital replica of the AO.

“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,” Ridley Plummer, a project manager at Tennis Australia, said in a statement. 

The Art Balls NFT collection goes on sale Jan. 13. The AO begins on Jan. 17.

This story was updated on Jan. 6, 2022, at 2:45 AM ET.

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  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]