Find out why I love the Australian Open so much, and some of the different ways they excel at creating an incredible fan experience.
By now, whether or not you attended the Australian Open this week, you’ll know how hot it was. You’ve seen the sweat and the ice-necks, and heard the player press conferences. In fact, it was the longest stretch of days of 41 degrees C since Melbourne records began.
Although attendance figures are around 14% less than last year due to the heat, fans still flocked to Melbourne Park in droves; total attendance for the first five days was over 275,000. Kudos goes to the Australian Open for creating such an incredible fan experience that so many people still attended, despite the heat. People like me went to six sessions in the first four days and loved every minute of it, and some of my tennis friends were there for up to 14 hours in a day.
Here are some of the reasons that fans love the Australian Open so much.
It’s easy to get there and easy to get tickets
You can walk to Melbourne Park from the Melbourne CBD, or get a tram for free. And with the exception of the middle Saturday, tickets are available at the gate, or online. Compared to Wimbledon and the French Open, the ticket availability is heaven. And although the US Open has a lot of tickets available, the Arthur Ashe promenade seats are a long way from the court and you need to ride a subway from the city for about 30 minutes to get there.
Find out more about Getting to Melbourne Park and Tips for Buying Tickets.
It goes without saying that at a Grand Slam tennis tournament you’ll get to watch tennis. And with so many matches being played in the first and second rounds, a Ground Pass for the outside courts is great value at $AUD 34.
The Australian Open has loads of outside courts with seating that gets you close to the action and it’s pretty easy to get seats without queuing much. Because of the heat and rain delays on Thursday (second day of the second round) loads of matches were pushed back to the evening session, which became a tennis smorgasborg. Del Potro, Simon, Cilic, Verdasco, Lopez and other topi players were all on court at the same time. One of the highlights of the night was the five setter between Benoit Paire and Nick Kyrgios, which ended around 1.30am.
Social media interaction
The Australian Open Twitter account is awesome at interacting with fans and keeping us updated about results, news and scheduling. There is even a dedicated @aohelp Twitter account to answer questions from fans quickly and give them the answers they need to have a great experience.
If you’re planning to go to any Grand Slam tournament and you’re not already on Twitter, I’d encourage you to get an account set up. You can follow the official tournament accounts, players, tennis journalists, tennis publications and other fans. In my opinion it’s the best way to stay updated, have laughs and meet other fans.
Find out more about the innovation that drives the Australian Open online fan experience.
Australian Open memberships
I’ve been an Australian Open member since the program began (in 2008 from memory). I’m sure all members will agree that it’s great value. You get Pre-Sale access to tickets, merchandise discounts, free ground passes and program and access to the Members’ Lounge. This year there is a new Members’ lounge in Hisense Arena and every day Members have been taking advantage of the air conditioning, seats, minimal queuing for food and drink and TVs to keep up with matches. The atmosphere is really friendly and staff very helpful.
Find out more about Australian Open memberships.
Dealing with the heat
It was ridiculously hot during the first week of AO this year. It’s regularly super hot for a day or two, but not for so many days in a row. Credit goes to the tournament for helping fans deal with the heat.
- There are water fountains where you can refill your water bottle
- There are big misty fans that you can stand in front of to cool off
- You can cool off in the air conditioned sides of Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena. This year there were also extra comfortable lounge seats and TVs at the side of Hisense Arena.
- There are shaded tables and chairs and areas of shade all around the grounds, including the extra shade created by the renovations to Margaret Court Arena.
- All the sponsor marquees are air conditioned so you can pop in there to cool off and enjoy the activities.
- There are air conditioned bars and restaurants were you can relax.
The Practice Courts
In 2013 the Australian Open introduced the Practice Courts viewing deck and published the practice schedule around the grounds and on the website. This year (for me and loads of other fans) there is another great addition to the practice schedule; Rafa. Along with all the players still in the draw, Rafa has been practicing regularly. Having the schedule published the day before means we can plan to be there at the right time. Depending how popular the player is and how early you arrive, you can really close to them near the fence at the edge of the court.
There is a relaxed atmosphere around the practice courts, with players who are walking to and from practice sessions stopping for photos with fans and to sign autographs. I try to stop by as often as possible because you never know who you might see.
The AO Partners
The main AO partners like Kia, IBM, ANZ and Medibank really do a great job of engaging with fans during the tournament. They all have Marquees set up in Grand Slam Oval where you can do fun stuff for free. This year both Kia and IBM have online games where you can practice returning serves from either Sam Groth or one of the players currently on court. I went to Kia’s event at Fed Square this morning where fans played off at returning Sam Groth’s virtual serve via an App. The fan that scored the highest won $5,000. He was totally wrapped! I however kept missing the return.
Have a go for yourself at www.ibmreturnserve.com.au and Kia game on.
View more photos from Week 1 of the 2014 Australian Open:
- Best Pics of the Men in Round 1
- Best Pics of the Women in Round 1
- Best Pics from Day 4
- Djokovic’s Round 2 Match
- Rafa’s Day 2 Practice Session
- Rafa’s Round 1 Match
- Rafa’s Day 5 Practice Session
- Roger’s Day 5 Practice Session
- Stosur’s Practice Session
- Verdasco’s Practice Session
- Tsonga’s Practice Session
What do you love about the Australian Open fan experience?
Until next time
Grand Slam Gal