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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal would certainly have a few good tips for you about how to survive back-to-back-to-back marathon matches at the Australian Open (ice baths, anyone)? Visiting the Australian Open as a spectator isn’t nearly as grueling as what these guys put themselves through day-in, day-out, but it’s an experience that will be much better appreciated if you do a bit of planning beforehand. Here are five of my top ten tips learned from my two days at Australian Open 2013, during which I spent a whopping 24.5 hours at Melbourne Park.
This one ended up being crucially important to me when I left Rod Laver Arena at 2am on Monday morning after watching Djokovic and Wawrinka’s epic 5-set clash. Melbourne Park is only a short walk along the Yarra from Melbourne’s CBD, so basing yourself at a hostel or hotel there means a lot less time and money spent on public transport. I stayed at Melbourne Central YHA and found it to be quiet and clean — all I needed when I was spending all my time at the tennis! Plus, there’s a courtesy tram that runs from Flinders Street at Queen Street to Melbourne Park — and they even kept it running at 2am to get the 10,000 people that stuck around for the match back home.
I was spoiled when I went to Wimbledon. For a week, we camped out for tickets and got to pick exactly which court we wanted based on the schedule for the day. Unfortunately, you can’t always do that at the Australian Open. Tickets go on sale on Ticketek from October and some sessions are sold out long before the day of the match. I’d feel comfortable showing up on a weekday to buy day session tickets, but weekends and night sessions (especially Saturday night in the first week) are much more in demand. I managed to buy a Sunday night ticket on the day (when I saw Djokovic vs. Wawrinka on the schedule) but it was one of the last few and had an “obstructed view” (meaning I couldn’t slouch in my seat because the advertising on the ledge in front of me would have blocked my view).If you want a ticket to the men’s finals, I’d suggest buying tickets as soon as they go on sale.
Sure, everyone complains about the weather in their city, but there is truth behind the adage that Melbourne gets four seasons in one day. I was lucky not to see any rain, but I was treated to 40C+ in Rod Laver Arena (see #5) during the day and about 12C at night. To deal with this, I carried around a small bag with a long sleeved shirt, a jacket, and jeans to change into before the evening session started. I would have been really uncomfortable otherwise.
Aussies have been told for years that they need to ‘slip, slop, slap’ when they’re out in the sun. That means slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat. All of these are important to remember at the Open. As tempting as it may be to wear a tank top, it’s important to bring some sort of light shirt or towel that you can cover your shoulders with if you’re sitting in the sun. Clothes and towels don’t come cheap at the Open — a players’ towel (not used by a player, just similar to the ones they use) cost upwards of $55! Make sure to top up your sunscreen all day — I put it on about four times and still had a red nose by the end of the day, courtesy of the fact that I forgot my hat. Another good reason to slap on that hat is the afternoon sun. You get glaring sun in your eyes from some seats on both Rod Laver and HiSense Arenas and it’s much better to have a hat than having to hold your tickets over your eyes to block the sun…or getting a terrible headache as I did.
I went to two day sessions at the Open. The first one was in HiSense Arena, which was hot but not oppressively so, even though I was sitting in the sun. Rod Laver Arena, on the other hand, felt like it would have been better suited to roasting a turkey on Christmas Day than hosting tennis matches. I’m not the only one that felt that way; once, when I was waiting to come back into the stadium with a refilled water bottle and a frozen Fanta, someone looked at me and said, “Welcome to the valley of death.” I guess that’s what you get with an arena that is partially closed in (due to its sliding roof) and therefore has no airflow in or out.
This one is really two tips wrapped in one. The first is buy tickets in the shade.I didn’t think it would make a huge difference and thought that sitting closer to the action would be worth it. It wasn’t. I would have much rather been in the rafters and not had to worry about rehydrating every two seconds, and that was when the temperature was 25C outside the arena. Imagine what it would be like when the mercury goes up another 10 degrees.
The second tip is to make sure you take care of yourself. Once a set, I got up and left the arena to refill my water bottle (which you can do at water fountains or for free at any of the concession stands) and to occasionally buy other cold drinks. It felt nice just to be standing in line, since the entire concourse is air conditioned.
All of these things are pretty easy to do and they’ll make your time at the Open much more enjoyable. Get ready to be wowed by the power of Rafa’s forehand, the fluidity of Federer’s volleys, and the sheer volume of Azarenka’s shrieks!
Are there any other tips that you would add to this list?