MELBOURNE, Oct 2 The Australian Open, which styles itself the tennis grand slam of Asia-P

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MELBOURNE, Oct 2 (Reuters) The Australian Open, which styles itself the tennis grand slam of Asia-Pacific, will provide a designated ''Asian court'' at the 2008 event in January.

The move, designed to court the mushrooming Asian market for tennis and leisure, will see Melbourne Park's Court Three host matches of special significance to the region.

''We see the marketplace and the role we play in Asia/Pacific developing the game of tennis as one of the things we need to connect with Asia,'' Australian Associated Press on Tuesday quoted Tennis Australia (TA) chief executive Steve Wood as saying, while announcing the move.

The prize pool at the Jan. 14-27 hardcourt grand slam event is the largest in the event's history at 20.6 million Australian dollars ($18.43 million), organisers said.

The men's and women's singles winners will take home A$1.37 million each.

REUTERS SSC BD1640

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