Fan Slam Rankings Part 4: How do the grand slams compare for fan experience?

Find out how the grand slams compare for the key factors that impact your fan experience.

This is the fourth article in a series comparing key elements of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

In this article I’ll review the fan experience at each tournament.

Also read:

How do the fan slam rankings work?

For each aspect of the tournament each grand slam was rated from 1 to 4, with the best tournament scoring 4 and lowest scoring 1. If two tournaments were equivalent, the total points were shared.  For example if two tournaments were equally best, the total points for the top two ratings (4 + 3 = 7) are shared so each tournament receives 3.5.

The scores are based on my opinion and I welcome your feedback in the comments at the end of the article.

At the end of the fan slam ranking series we’ll add up the points to see which tournament is the best overall.

Summary of fan slam rankings to date (from Part 3)

Based on the scores for ease of getting to the venuemerchandise and ease of getting tickets the tally so far is:

US Open : 18

Australian Open : 17.5

French Open : 13.5

Wimbledon : 11

Fan Experience

This category receives double points because the fan experience is integral to how much you enjoy attending the tournament.

Rankings

Wimbledon : 8

Australian Open : 6

US Open : 4

French Open : 2

Wimbledon

Wimbledon have pulled out all the stops to create a fabulous fan experience. Here are some of the fan highlights:

  • The grounds are the least crowded of all the slams. The Wimbledon grounds are the same size as the Australian Open grounds but they sell less tickets so it’s less crowded. (This is a downside for fans though in terms of ease of getting tickets.) Also, a lot of people are seated on Henman Hill (Murray Mound) watching the big screen and a lot of people are tidily queuing up waiting to get seats to watch matches.
  • The incredibly clean and tidy grounds are beautifully decorated like an English Country Garden.
  • The procedure for getting into the grounds is extremely well organised. There are a lot of different gates where you can enter the grounds and each ticket holder is allocated a specific entry gate. This means you wait in one of many small queues to get in, rather than in one of a few big queues. The ground staff also deserve a special mention for being incredibly polite and efficient during the entry and bag check process.
  • Wimbledon’s ushers are men and women in official uniforms, like fire brigade, police and armed forces. They have authority and the crowd listens when they ask for quiet. Plus they all seemed to be knowledgable about tennis. They were up to date with the score of the match in progress and able to give updates while you’re waiting to get back to your seat.
  • The toilet facilities are spotless. Not once did I have to queue, was there a lack of toilet paper or did I see someone with a piece of toilet paper accidentally stuck to their foot.
  • Although it’s a downer that it rains a lot during Wimbledon, I have to say that they are good at rain. There are undercover cafes, restaurants and seating areas where you can pass the time while waiting for the weather to improve.

Find out more:

Wimbledon’s Outside Courts

Flowers around the Wimbledon grounds

Baghdatis signing autographs on the way back from the practice courts at Wimbledon

One of the undercover seating areas at Wimbledon

Australian Open

  • The Australian Open also has a wonderful fan experience. Wimbledon only just beat AO in the rankings because the grounds are less crowded and also because of the extreme heat that fans regularly experience at the AO. In the next few years the AO venue will be upgraded to included more covered area where fans can shelter from the sun.
  • Something I love about the Australian Open is the entertainment that takes place, in addition to the tennis. There are live bands every night, dining rooms where you can have a sit down meal and activities provided by Sponsors. Although I found it refreshing to be at Wimbledon where everyone there just wanted to watch tennis, I still love the fact that casual and even non tennis fans can have a wonderful day enjoying the atmosphere at the Australian Open.
  • Going to the US Open also reinforced to me how much the Australian Open organisers genuinely care about the fan experience.
    • There are plenty of friendly and helpful staff doing their jobs well
    • The Twitter account replies to your questions
    • There are big screens everywhere where the crowd can watch the main court matches.
    • There are TVs at the doors to Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena so you don’t miss out on tennis while you’re waiting to get back to your seat
    • There are places to buy food and drinks everywhere around the grounds, along with water fountains where you can easily fill your water bottle
    • There are power points in the main arenas where you can charge your phone
    • There is a wide variety of food options available to the general public ie you don’t need to pay extra $$$ to get access to restaurants like you do at Flushing Meadows.

Also have a look at Australian Open 2012: Pics from around the Grounds.

People reclining in deck chairs watching one of the many big screens at AO

View of Melbourne from the Australian Open grounds

One of the free sponsor activities at the Australian Open

French Open

The French Open fan experience is generally good but they ranked low for this criteria due to the limited space in the grounds.

Due to the lack of space, one of the main big screens is located at the end of one of the main walkways. This means you need to duck and weave between people standing still watching the big screen in order to get to and from Court Suzanne Lenglen. This problem is amplified when a match in Court Suzanne Lenglen finishes and most of the crowd leaves the court at the same time. The areas at the sides of the court become grid locked, not to mention that the grid locked crowd has to navigate around all the people queuing for toilets at the side of the court.

There are plans to upgrade the French Open venue at Roland Garros in the next few years.

On the plus side for the French Open their staff uniforms are the best, very French, very stylish. And I loved their Qualifying day. It was 20 Euros to get in but everything was set up like the main draw tournament. If you can’t get tickets for the French Open I recommend going to Qualifying to see the grounds and get a feel for Roland Garros. Also, seeing Rafa practicing when we were at Qualifying was one of my best memories of the year.

Also have a look at:

French Open uniforms

The main walkway between Court Suzanne Lenglen and Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros

Crowds around the sides of Court Suzanne Lenglen

Rafa practicing at Roland Garros

The main public seated eating area at Roland Garros

US Open

If the US Open was the first grand slam that I ever went too I’m sure I would think it was great. But having the Australian Open as my home slam has set a high standard for the fan experience that I’ve come to expect.

The US Open employs ample staff but for a lot of them their job seems to be standing in one place and saying “Welcome to the US Open” or “move along please”. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was really friendly and helpful but I think their time would be better spent doing something constructive like being ushers and keeping the crowd organised in the Arthur Ashe Promenade.

Another thing that had a big impact on my fan experience was the changes to the schedule of play that weren’t announced in time for ticket holders to respond, and were slow to be added to the US Open website and the US Open app, which I relied on for information.

I not sure that the US Open Twitter account ever interacted with a fan, and in 2012 it was written about in the Wall Street Journal for all the mistakes that were made in their tweets. For example, saying that Andy Roddick was playing rather than Andy Murray.

A friend said to me that at the US Open the Corporate Supporters and TV Viewing audience are a higher priority than the general ticket holders. Once I starting experiencing the event with that in mind it was easier not to be bothered by all the little things that could have been tweaked to improve the fan experience.

On the plus side, US Open gets special mention for their Honey Deuce Signature Cocktails. They were $14 which includes a Grey Goose cocktail and a souvenir US Open glass. Very refreshing during the heat.

The qualifying day at the US Open the Friday before the tournament starts is also great. It’s free to get in, not too crowded and you can see loads of players practicing. We were lucky enough to see Roger Federer practicing in Louis Armstrong stadium.

The US Open grounds viewed from the top of Arthur Ashe Promenade

The US Open puts on a great show for the Opening Night

Roger Federer during the Qualifying Day at the US Open

One of the walkways to Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open

What you can bring in to the grounds with you

I’ve added ranking points for this category because this factor has an impact on the overall fan experience, particularly if you’re on a budget and prefer to bring your own food rather than buying it. Or if you’re gluten free like me, and often find it hard to find tasty food options at take-away outlets. Plus it can be a long hot day at the tennis, which means that lots of drinks and snacks are needed.

Wimbledon : 4

Australian Open : 2.5

French Open : 2.5

US Open : 1

Our snack pack for a day at Roland Garros

Each tournament allows you to a bring a bag that fits underneath your seat.  But what you can have in that bag and maximum size varies.

Wimbledon gets a special mention because you can bring in a lot of food and a bottle of wine each. Australian Open and the French Open are also generous with what you can bring but you can’t bring alcohol. The US Open allows a small bag containing individual refreshment and nourishment. But no back packs. Make the mistake of bringing a back pack to the US Open and you need to leave the entrance queue, go to another queue to check your bag, then return to the original entrance queue.

Summary of fan slam rankings to date

Based on the scores mentioned above and the previous fan slam rankings for ease of getting to the venuemerchandise and ease of getting tickets, the tally so far is:

Australian Open : 26

Wimbledon : 23

US Open : 23

French Open : 18

Stay tuned for the final article in the Fan Slam Rankings Series on the grand slam venues and find out which slam wins the series!

Until next time

Grand Slam Gal


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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks Donna, I appreciate your feedback. I’ve enjoyed writing them too, and remembering all the details of the events.