GSG’s thoughts and fan ramblings about the 2015 Australian Open including the moments, the friends, the scheduling and more.
This AO I attended twelve sessions which were a mix of day and night sessions in both Rod Laver Arena (RLA) and Margaret Court Arena (MCA) and Ground Passes. Thanks go to Grand Slam Tennis Tours, Kia Australia who I won tickets from in a competition, my AO Membership which allowed me to buy tickets before the general public, IGers Melbourne and tennis friends for helping me get access to such a wealth of awesome tickets and seats.
As always the event was a whirlwind of watching tennis, tweeting, taking photos, sharing photos, checking the AO app for scores and schedules, tweeting, catching up with friends and family, tweeting, writing, editing photos, uploading photos, publishing photos, sharing blog articles, tweeting, watching more tennis and then, starting all over again the next day!
Every year the Australian Open team improve the grounds at Melbourne Park and the Australian Open fan experience and this year was no exception!
Given the 2015 mix of no crazy hot weather, Australians winning for several rounds, the AO becoming more and more known as being a must-attend event, changes to ticketing in MCA and Hisense Arenas and the nicely placed Australia Day long weekend right in the middle of the tournament, it’s no surprise I continually heard mention of record crowds.
Here are my key reflections on 2015 Australian Open from a tennis fan/bloggers point of view.
Fortunately there didn’t seem to be nearly as many injuries and retirements as previous years. Here are the moments that stand out in my memory, let me know in the comments if I missed any.
- Novak Djokovic d Andy Murray to win his 5th Australian Open title and become the first man in the open era to win five AO titles.
- Serena Williams winning her 19th grand slam and 6th Australian Open title
- Maria Sharapova making the women’s final a good contest
- Madison Keys’ run to the semifinals
- What Kim Sears said during Murray’s semifinal v Berdych
- Murray commending the choice of a female coach in his on court interview after defeating Berdych
- The weird error prone Djokovic v Wawrinka semifinal
- Berdych defeating Nadal for the first time in 18 matches in the quarterfinals
- Murray v Kyrgios in the quarterfinals, and all the hype created by Australian media
- Venus Williams’ run to the quarterfinals
- Kyrgios defeating Seppi in the fourth round. Here’s a fab article on Tennis Buzz of tweets from one of my friend’s who attended the match.
- Cibulkova defeating Azarenka in the fourth round
- Muller defeating Isner in the fourth round
- Seppi defeating Federer in the third round
- Dimitrov defeating Baghdatis in five in the third round
- Venus defeating Radwanska
- Nadal feeling dizzy during his second round match against Smyczek and going on to win
- The sportsmanship showed by Smyczek in allowing Nadal to replay a point that was a fault during the fifth set when a doofus in the crowd yelled out while Nadal was serving
- Ana Ivanovic’s first round loss along with all those other women’s seeds
- Cold weather! I can’t ever recall shivering in Rod Laver Arena like I did during the Day 9 quarterfinals
- The beautiful new Margaret Court Arena
- The Andy Boys, The Genie Army and The Fanatics supporting their players
- Genie Bouchard being asked to twirl on court
- Andy Murray being asked if he will be “freeballing” in his kilt when he gets married
- Djokovic saying that Becker, like everyone, needs to have a break to go to the toilet when he was absent from the player box for a few games
- The player selfies including Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver
- The pink and yellow Nike outfits including Azarenka’s completely yellow version
- The Aussie guys in the first week; Kyrgios, Tomic, Groth, Kokkinakis, Hewitt and Duckworth
- Serena telling Venus to challenge from the sidelines https://twitter.com/turkishmommy/status/559652286566498305 (look away if you don’t like the “f” word.) Thanks to Turkish Mommy for sharing this moment.
Changes to Margaret Court Arena and Hisense Arena Ticketing
This year the newly renovated MCA was fully ticketed and there was Ground Pass Access to Hisense Arena. The renovations also mean that Melbourne Park now has three courts with retractable roofs, which ironically, due to good tennis weather conditions were barely needed, if at all.
The renovations team did a great job of connecting MCA with RLA so that when you’re inside it’s easy to get from one court to the other, and to access the food outlets, shops and toilets that surround the edges of both courts. I had a fabulous experience inside MCA, great view in comfortable seats. The only thing lacking was cup holders. Although that might seem like a trivial comment, I’m really surprised that what I believe is now one of the best tennis arena’s in the world doesn’t have them. And we did witness angry words when someone’s drink was kicked over by a person passing by to leave the arena. Cup holders would have avoided that, and I’m sure many similar incidents!
Granted that it’s the first year in quite a few that Hisense has offered Ground Pass access, it’s natural that the AO team will learn a lot from this year and make improvements. Due to the tickets I had I never personally queued for Hisense Arena seats but I did walk past when the crowds waiting to get into the Kyrgios v Seppi match were told that it was unlikely they would get in as no one was leaving their seats. I can only imagine how disappointing that was if you had already been waiting for ages.
As advised by friends, Pass outs were handed out to everyone who left Hisense Arena, so only a limited number of new people could enter because the ushers weren’t sure how many seats needed to be kept for Pass out holders. This meant that despite huge queues outside, there were many empty seats inside. Added to that the Pass outs didn’t have a time stamp, so effectively you could leave and then avoid the big queue when you returned at any time later in the day.
Other tournaments like Wimbledon don’t have Pass outs, so when you leave your seat someone else can have it, which means the queue for seats moves faster. Or the pass out system could be improved if date and time stamps are enforced, with a limited amount of time to return to your seat.
In future years, GSG’s suggestion is that AO consider offering Premium Reserved Seats in the section behind the baselines in Hisense Arena, with all the other seats being Ground Pass access (this arrangement worked well for a few years before Hisense Areana became fully ticketed).
Then for MCA, have allocated seats in the lower level, with Ground Pass access to the upper level. As the upper level has separate stair wells, the queues should be easy to manage.
These combinations would allow for a mix of people who can pay for an allocated seat in their chosen Arena if they want to, while allowing Ground Passes holders to get into more matches (subject to length of queues) and help build the crowd and create a great atmosphere.
From the minute the Australian Open Draw is held the Friday before the tournament starts tennis fans like me start speculating about the Schedule of Play; who will play on what court and whether it will be the Day or Night session. Well, in my humble opinion this year the schedule was harder to predict that ever before.
Low seeded Aussies played night matches on Rod Laver Arena during the first week, Roger and Rafa were given consistent Day and Night sessions in RLA for both Rounds 2 and 3, rather than being swapped from Day to Night and none of the Aussies (Kokkinakis, Kyrgios and Tomic) played on RLA until Nick’s quarterfinal match against Andy Murray.
I can only imagine how difficult the scheduling is, and how many factors come into play when figuring out who plays where and when. There is a need to spread popular matches around RLA, MCA and outside courts so that all ticket holders get value. And matches are scheduled to suit local and overseas TV networks. But it’s not just me who thinks this year’s scheduling was weird, it was a topic of discussion with my tennis friends and was also discussed regularly by tennis media and players.
Ever since I attended the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, where they announced good spectator etiquette before each match (turn mobile phones to silent and only move to and from your seat when it’s a change of ends) I’ve wondered why every tennis tournament doesn’t do something similar. And/or confirm good etiquette on the big screen before a match starts.
Although etiquette at AO isn’t bad in the global scheme of things, during the first week I saw too many people in both RLA and MCA moving to and from their seats after the first game of a set, rather than waiting for three games. Plus, someone please let members of the crowd know not to stop and block the stairways when people are trying to move to and from their seats. And to walk at a normal place, rather than slowing down and making it impossible for anyone to pass. Perhaps it’s the lack of a hand rail to hold on to?
Melbourne truly embraces the Australian Open
No one can deny that Melbourne is very very good at hosting the Australian Open:
- from the free Australian Open trams
- to signage everywhere helping you get to the free trams or pointing you toward the grounds
- to the decorations on the Fed Square visitor centre
- to the live sites in Fed Square, Crown and South Wharf
- to the banners all around the city and in hotel lobbies
- to tennis balls displayed in restaurant and shop windows
- to tennis on TV in so many bars, restaurants and cafes
- to Djokovic’s face looking at me from the ANZ ATM
- to Kia cars waiting outside hotels and seen driving around the CBD.
Added to if you watch out for them, tennis players and their teams are everywhere. A few of the players that I saw were Maria Sharapova walking past in the lobby of Crown, Gael Monfils staying on our street and Genie Bouchard on our flight from Perth to Melbourne.
The Practice Courts
Once again the Practice Courts were one of my favourite parts of the tournament. To be able to enter the grounds on Day 1 and walk straight over to where Rafa was practicing was a magical start to the fortnight. I heard loads of comments from people around me on the Viewing Deck who had similar thoughts about how great it was that it’s so easy to see top ranked players practicing.
Read more about the Australian Open practice courts.
From their active and interactive Twitter account to increased activity on Instagram, the #AOSelfie, being able to Tweet for a Treat (I won a tennis racquet for my niece!) and many other activities, as always the Australian Open sets the pace for grand slam engagement with fans via social media.
Read a fab view written by a friend of mine about use of social media at the Australian Open.
Photos of the Players in Action
Due to having great seats for a lot of matches and being able to see many player practice sessions, we were able to take thousands of photos. View the highlights below.
View photos of the men in action in the first week and more of the men on Day 1
My Honour Roll
Huge thanks to Craig Tiley, Kim Trengove and the entire Australian Open team. As fans we can’t even contemplate the amount of work that goes into successfully making this tournament bigger and better each year. Last night in her runner-up speech Maria Sharapova thanked Craig Tiley for being one of the best tournament directors and putting on one of the best tennis events in the world. I couldn’t agree more!
Thanks as always to my Ballboy Andrew, for printing the tickets, taking the photos, recharging the batteries, going to the supermarket, washing the clothes and doing a million other things so that I could focus on tennis and blogging during every available minute over the past month.
To all my tennis friends on Twitter, thank you for contributing to this AO being an amazing experience, for the Tweets, Retweets, Favourites and comments, for the debriefs, the commiserations and celebrations. Also for helping me to get tickets, and to get and sell tickets for friends.
Special mention goes to the awesome tennis friends who I was able to catch up with at the grounds and before Rafa’s Summer Set (Kirstie, Zoe, Alex, Deb, Kat, Kate, Brian, Trish, Jen and Kristina), Twitter friends that I met in real life for the first time this year (Sandy, Arni, Linda, Dinelka, Erlita, Haydn, James, Josh and Fiona), to the fabulous Trudi and Jeanni who are Happy Slam Tennis – I’ll be your AO Wingman anytime! – and to Liz and Steph, wish you were here 🙂 Loved that I was also able to spend some time with real life friends, Loren and Siobhan and my mum and dad.
So that’s an AO Wrap for 2015. Onward to clay season and yes, I know I say this every year, but bring on AO2016, only 50 weeks to go!
Until next time
Grand Slam Gal
If you’ve ever thought about attending the Hopman Cup in Perth in the lead up to the Australian Open, here’s my fan’s eye view of the event. I highly recommend it