Here’s my fan wrap up of the 2016 Australian Open season – which sure was a winner, for the fans, players, the sponsors, the organisers and the city of Melbourne.
The Lead Up
During the weekend prior to the Australian Open some fabulous tennis events were held at Crown. Have a look at photos from:
- The IMG Player Party
- Maria Sharapova signing autographs and being interviewed
- Feliciano Lopez launching a new Wilson racquet
The highlight of these events for me was seeing Rafa at the Player party, and watching him be interviewed on stage, which I recorded here. Also view photos of Rafa during the interview which are quite awesome if I do say so myself!
New Initiatives for 2016
The Australian Open team works hard to make the event bigger and better each year. The new thing I liked most this year was the video wall around the side of the three main courts during the breaks and change of ends. They added a bit of razzle dazzle and made it easier to see the Video Line Call replays.
In true Melbourne “four seasons in one day” style, the weather didn’t do anyone any favours, with several days starting off rainy, so the roofs were closed on the three main courts, then turning out to be sunny in the afternoon. At least we only had a few incredibly hot days, which made the conditions a lot more pleasant for players, fans and everyone else involved in the tournament.
The free Australian Open Festival of food trucks and fun sponsor activities located in Birrarung Marr was new this year. I walked past it most nights on my way home and loads of people were enjoying the atmosphere and watching the tennis on the big screens, particularly from bean bags in front of the giant screen at the CC Racquet Club which also had a great view of the city.
Australian Open Social Media
As always the social media interaction with @australianopen enhanced the fan experience by answering questions, sharing updates and running promotions.
Here’s my video tour around the Social Shack which explains some of the AO16 social media promotions.
A new promotion this year was the Hisense Arena Social Suite, which allowed followers on Twitter or Instagram to jump the queue with a reserved seat in Hisense Arena, plus snacks and giveaways.
I love how the Australian Open merges with the city of Melbourne so that you can see it everywhere, including the @AustralianOpen tweets which were shown on a billboard opposite Flinders Street station.
Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray in the Men’s Final
Djokovic won in straight sets to earn his sixth Australian Open title and joins Roy Emerson to equal his number of Australian Open titles. He defeated Andy Murray in straight sets 6-1, 7-5, 7-6.
Read below for my notes from before the match, or jump this section!
Djokovic had an incredible year in 2015 and it continues in 2016. Aside from the 100 unforced errors in his match against Simon, which he eventually won in five sets, Djokovic has had a really impressive tournament. This was amplified by his semifinal against Federer, winning the first two sets 6-1, 6-2 in just 54 minutes before Roger bounced back to win the third (which I think was the best set of the tournament so far).
Djokovic Highlights for the tournament (thanks to IBM for providing this analysis)
- Solid serving – 53 aces – 76% 1st serves won – 62% 2nd serves won (was 1st on the ATP Tour last year at 60%) – held 92 of 101 service games (91%)
- Solid return game – especially against 2nd serves (won 61% returning 2nd serves – was 1st on the ATP Tour last year at 57%) – averaging 5 breaks of serve per match
Has more total winners than unforced errors even with 100 unforced against Simon in the 4th round Murray Highlights:
- Solid serving – 64 aces – 79% 1st serves won – 57% 2nd serves won – held 93 of 103 service games (90%)
- Solid return game – especially against 2nd serves (won 61% returning 2nd serves – was 2nd on the ATP Tour last year at 55%) – averaging almost 6 breaks of serve per match
Very balanced from the baseline – 62 forehand winners – 61 backhand winners
Djokovic leads Murray 21-9 in their hear to head matches, including 6 of 7 in 2015 and 10 of their last 11. These two are almost clones of each other in terms of their tennis styles and strengths. In last year’s final after the first two sets, total points won were 85 for Djokovic and 86 for Murray. Through the first two sets Djokovic had hit 333 forehands and 294 backhands – Murray had hit 333 forehands and 289 backhands. The match changed in the 3rd set as Murray jumped out to a 2-0 lead and Djokovic broke back to even the set at 2-2. After Murray held serve for 3-3, he didn’t win another game. The first two sets in last year’s final took 2 hours 32 minutes.
So the challenge for Murray is can he play at that high level for as long as it takes to outlast Djokovic. The big difference in their matches has come down to 2nd serve performance. Djokovic was number 1 on tour in winning 2nd serve points on serve and on return. Murray was 2nd on tour in winning 2nd serve return points, but his own 2nd serve was ranked 25th in 2015. In last year’s final Djokovic won 62% on his 2nd serve and Murray won just 34% when he had to hit a 2nd serve. Djokovic has struggled a bit on his backhand through the tournament. Will Murray be able to break that shot down and will his 2nd serve hold up against Djokovic’s returns? The answers to those questions may decide the champion for 2016.
Angelique Kerber defeated Serena Williams in the Women’s Final
Serena was on a mission to win her 22nd grand slam title this AO, and didn’t drop a set along the way to the final. Despite her dominating form, she was defeated by Angelique Kerber in the final who played the match of her life. It was a fantastic final, with Angie a worthy winner and Serena showing great sportsmanship while congratulating her win.
View photos from the Women’s Final Trophy Ceremony and the Match.
I also want to mention three other players
Lleyton Hewitt – he will be missed
Australian tennis legend Lleyton was defeated by David Ferrer during the second round of this, his final Australian Open appearance. He’ll continue being involved with Australian Open tennis as Davis Cup captain. David Ferrer did a great interview after the match, saying “in my career tonight is going to be very special for me (as) the last match for Lleyton” and “he’s one of the best players of the history…I never had idols but Lleyton is… idol for me”.
Lleyton’s kids joined him for his final on court interview and also in his press conference.
Rafael Nadal – he was missed
If you’ve read my blog during the Australian Open in previous years you’ll know that Rafa is a very important part of the tournament for me! It was always going to be a tough match against Verdasco in the first round, and it proved to be too tough, with Verdasco playing out of his skin and Nadal losing in five.
All I can say is that he was missed, by me and many other fans. We missed him at the practice courts, seeing his matches and soaking up photos, videos and articles related to Rafa being in Melbourne.
Luckily the gals Happy Slam Tennis got some lovely pics of Rafa’s practice session on Day 1.
Daria Gavrilova – Superstar in the Making!
Dasha was brilliant as part of the winning Hopman Cup team in the lead up to AO, and she was also brilliant during her first and second round wins against Lucie Hradecka and Petra Kvitova. She stepped it up further against Kristina Mladenovic during the third round, coming through a tough battle to win 11-9 in the third set of one of my favourite matches of the tournament.
Then came the fourth round match against Carla Suarez-Navarro. Winning the first set 6-0 for a while there it seemed that reaching the quarterfinals would happen. But it wasn’t to be, with Dasha getting emotional and losing the next two sets. During her press conference she said that her behaviour was “unacceptable” and I’m confident that she’ll learn from the experience and go on to win many more tough matches this year.
Love them or hate them I think two of the main fashion standouts were Serena Williams and “Sunset” Stan Wawrinka.
In case you missed Stan’s outfit (if you saw it, you’ll remember!) have a look at this AO vid
I’m so impressed by the creative promotions that the Australian Open sponsors run to enhance the fan experience and promote their brands.
Here are a few of my favourites.
Optus adding free phone recharging stations around the grounds – this is invaluable for fans, especially those who love “battery flattening” social media, and don’t have a charger or back up battery.
Blackmores had a big pavillion in Grand Slam Oval where you could try their superfoods, get a massage and do other fun stuff. They also had teams walking around the grounds giving out samples of their superfoods. I added their Cacao to my super and also tried the chia and can honestly say that I’m converted!
The Medibank area was giving away free sweat bands and allowed fans to test their skills at picking if balls where “in” or “out”. Plus you could have a mist shower to cool down from the afternoon heat.
Lavazza coffee had stands all around the grands and a big area with a rooftop terrace that has a great view of Grand Slam Oval and the Melbourne skyline.
The Shanghai Masters tournament has a partnership with the Australian Open. They ran a competition to win Men’s Final tickets and were also giving away fab little desktop calendar’s which have the tournament dates marked.
I didn’t get a chance to visit Kia, Woolworths or ANZ but they also had big areas with fun activities in Grand Slam Oval.
The Practice Courts
The Practice Courts, which were revamped a few years ago, are one of my favourite parts of the Australian Open.
The practice schedule is put on their website the day before, and also shown on screens around the grounds, so it’s easy to see your favourite player up close while practicing. If it’s a popular player the hardest part is getting a position at the front of the rails. And it’s also tough if the player doesn’t show but no announcement is made, which happened for a few of Roger Federer’s practices. I eventually saw his practice on Thursday before the semifinal against Djokovic. But the session was held on Court 2 with the gates closed so I couldn’t get close, but luckily have good zoom!
Generally speaking the crowds at AO are great. They’re friendly, chilled out, relaxed and enjoying the day. But unfortunately, as Hisense Arena has ground pass access, with a 30 minute pass-out system ie you can leave your seat but need to return with 30 minutes, it tends to bring out the worst in people who:
a. Don’t understand or adhere to the pass-out system. Which is made worse by Door staff who don’t explain it properly
b. Don’t understand tennis etiquette and think they move to and from their seats whenever they like, or stop in the middle of the walkway to watch a match that’s in play.
The behaviour of some crowd members in Hisense Arena prompted me to make this video on Tennis Fan Etiquette. Please share it with your friends who haven’t been to a tennis tournament before.
A big change to my personal enjoyment of the AO has been due to Periscope, which is an app that allows Video Live Streaming. Both the Australian Open and tennis fans, including me, have been using it to allow people to see events and parts of the tournament that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see. I’ve been doing regular “fan chats” and updates and it’s a really nice to meet tennis fans from all around the world.
I can’t emphasise enough how much my tennis friends add so much experience to my Australian Open experience. It’s so great to be able to chat to people in real life, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Periscope about upcoming matches, players, activities going around AO, match results, practice sessions and so much more.
To all my ongoing, and new friends that I met this Aus Open, thank you! It wouldn’t be the same without you.
And as always a huge thank you to my trusty partner Ballboy2012. Without his support in driving me to the grounds, going to the supermarket, hanging the washing, taking the photos, charging the batteries, filling the water bottle, printing the tickets and the million other things he does to make our life run smoothly during AO, I wouldn’t have had nearly as much time to spend at the tennis, writing my blog or chatting on social media.
And finally, to everyone who reads my blog, gives me feedback, and makes me wish there weren’t 50 weeks to wait until the 2017 Australian Open – thank you!
Until next time
Grand Slam Gal
P.S. Still want more? View our photos from the 2016 Australian Open…
- Women’s Final Trophy Ceremony
- Women’s Final during the match
- Women’s Doubles Final
- Isner v Lopez – Round 3
- Best Photos of Kei Nishikori
- Maria Sharapova’s Round 1 match