The Australian Open is a tennis tournament like no other. The first grand-slam of the calendar year, most of the players are back at it for yet another gruelling season. The park is located smack bang in the middle of the city, which is fantastically convenient for both spectators and players alike. It is walking distance from the city (about 5 – 10 minutes from Flinders Station) and there are pop-up stalls with food and activities all the way to the entrance. There are also trams and trains that run to the main entrance, where you can go to buy tickets on the day – but personally, I would recommend that you pre-purchase and avoid this entrance if possible because it gets so much more crowded.
Unsurprisingly there is a bag search as you enter the park – the main points to note are that GoPros are not allowed, nor are camera lenses over a certain size, and lastly, unsealed water bottles are prohibited. However, if you can freeze your water in advance (which is a great idea anyway considering how hot it can get during the day) then it shows that it isn’t alcohol and you will usually be allowed to take it in. There are heaps of places to fill up your bottle inside, so it’s always an option to just bring an empty bottle if you don’t want to have to buy on the inside. The last useful tip is that it is entirely acceptable to BYO food. Of course, there are a number of awesome food trucks and pop-up stalls around, but bringing some snacks is a great way to save money as everything is pretty expensive. When you are in need of food though there are so many different options. There are a bunch of areas that are divided up into different areas of the world, and the food that you can buy from that area corresponds. For example, in the French section there is a patisserie food truck, where you can buy baguettes, croissants and macarons and in the English section they serve strawberries and cream – so delicious!
One of the first things you should do when you arrive is check out the practice courts, or even better the practice schedule for the day. An easy way to see some of the big names close up (and if you’re lucky you may even steal a signature or a selfie!), there are a few courts set aside for the players to practise on, on a rotating schedule. Depending on who is scheduled in for the day, it may be a pretty popular spot. There is a concrete bridge which actually looks down over the courts and is usually slightly less crowded – but your chances of getting a signature are obviously near impossible.
The two courts you pay for (on top of buying a ground pass) are the Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court. These require separate tickets and are usually where the top-dogs play. Hisense Arena is a pretty impressive sight; and all that is required for entry is your ground pass. It also attracts relatively big names (for example I watched Tsonga play Evans here) so you should look at the schedule in advance to see what’s on – although you may have to queue/arrive early if it is expected to be a cracker of a game. If you don’t make it into the Hisense Arena, watching the tennis on the big screen outside the main courts is a pretty fabulous experience as well. The atmosphere is almost as good as being there… almost. Another pretty great place to view the tennis (with the added bonus of being free) is Federation Square. Day session or night session the atmosphere there can become pretty electric, pretty darn quickly.
Night sessions vs. day sessions is an interesting argument that my family has every year. I love the night sessions: the crowd is pumped, longer games creates adrenaline rushes, and there is nothing like finishing a day exploring Melbourne knowing that you can then sit the night away and enjoy some world class tennis, live. Not everyone agrees though; games can go late (like, really late), which can leave you feeling groggy the next day. Or, the opposite can happen and the games are over super quickly. When this happens, because it is night, the other courts are empty, meaning a pretty disappointingly early night can be had.
All in all, I can see why the players claim to love the Australian Open so much, and I’m not even playing. It is so much fun, I would highly recommending enjoying a day out there, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a tennis fan.