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A few days ago, I gave you my first five tips on how to survive a trip to the Australian Open. Those tips were all about how to get through the day happily rather than feeling miserable because you’re getting sunburned or heatstroke. The tips I have for you today are all things that I think will help you enjoy your experience to the fullest. You’ll get to see some great tennis and be part of some raucous crowds whatever you do, but I recommend…
The day and night sessions are as different as, well…night and day. The crowds at day sessions are often much calmer and not quite as engaged in the tennis, partially due to the plethora of other activities available around the grounds. The night session crowds are much louder and more fun to be a part of, especially when the beer has been flowing a while. Also, big names play on the show courts in both day and night sessions, but the marquee matches (and matches involving Australians) are usually reserved for the night session.
Even though that may make it sound like you should just go to a night session, I really think you should experience both if you get a chance. It is a bit exhausting to go to both on the same day — on my second day at the Open, I was there from 11.30am until 2am the following morning — but it can be done. That said, if you’ve got a bit more time, try to spread it between multiple days.
Unlike other Grand Slams (at least, when I attended them), the Australian Open publishes the exact practice schedule. This means that, even if one of the players you want to see isn’t playing on the day you’re there, you might be able to see them without hanging out at the practice courts all day hoping for a glimpse (like I did for Pat Rafter at Wimbledon in 2000. I didn’t see him).
However, the downside to this is that everyone else knows who is practicing when as well. For big name players, you might need to arrive at the practice courts an hour beforehand and stake out a spot. When I walked past when Djokovic was due to practice, it was impossible to even see the court.
Doubles is nearly always entertaining to watch. When all four players are at the net, smacking volleys at each other at what seems like a million miles per hour, it’s hard not to have a big grin on your face. It’s a nice change from a singles game that has come to revolve around the baseline and the serve; doubles is much more nuanced and often favours touch over sheer power. Plus, it’s something you’ll very rarely get to watch on TV since nearly all of the major networks seem to deem doubles unwatchable.
While many of the top singles players do not play doubles in the Grand Slams, there’s always a chance to see top players like the Williams Sisters here as well (although I would often rather watch doubles specialists like the Bryan brothers).
If you had asked me on Sunday afternoon — prior to the Djokovic-Wawrinka match — I would have said that, without a doubt, watching Legends Doubles had been the highlight of my trip. What a feeling it was when Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova walked out on the court. I was watching two true legends of the game, and they were having a great time. Plus, Martina Hingis looked like she could still be out on the pro tour.
Even better was the men’s Legends match. I knew when I saw Henri Leconte — a well-known goofball — and Goran Ivanisevic on the schedule that I’d be in for a treat, but what I didn’t realise was that my face would hurt from laughing at all of their antics. They were more of a comedy sideshow than tennis players, considering they played full points without a tennis ball and at one point Goran got up in the chair and added a full game to his score.
Plus, I could not wipe the grin off my face just from the fact I was seeing these guys play. I’d always wanted to see Goran play live and I was finally doing it even though he retired many years ago. Plus, he was still cranking aces at over 200km/h. Not bad for 41.
There’s so much to do at the Australian Open that I probably would have been happy having a grounds pass (except for the fact that I really wanted to see either Murray or Djokovic play). It would be very easy to split your time between the outer courts, the practice courts, and the “Grand Slam Oval” area, which boasts food, drinks, stands full of promotional products (I very much appreciated the Dove products after sweating up a storm in Rod Laver Arena), places where you can go on TV cheering for your favourite players (also in the Dove stand), and even a stand where you could fight people in zorbs floating on top of a pool.
To top it off, each night the Open had a musical act playing on stage in Grand Slam Square. Many of these were recent reality show winners, but there were a number of other popular acts as well. On the first night I was there, there was a “secret act” that turned out to be one of Australia’s most popular dance bands — The Presets. People in Hisense Arena heard the music start and made a beeline for it, tennis long forgotten.
I had a great time at the Open and it reignited my love for tennis, which had somewhat dwindled over the last few years as injuries kept me from playing. Hopefully these tips help it do the same for you!
What are your recommendations on the best way to spend your day at the Australian Open?