The Australian Open 2017 is officially launched today, and single session tickets go on sale tomorrow (October 11). If you’re a tennis fan who wants to watch AO next year (or in the coming years), here are our tips for you based on our experience with attending the Australian Open last January.
Even if you can’t watch the games inside the courts, you can watch the players practice. This is Practice Court 18, I think, which you can see from the bridge.
Aim to be there on the first two days
The entire tournament spans two weeks, but if you really want to see your favorite tennis players, it’s best to be there on the first and second days, because that’s when you’re guaranteed that ALL of the players are still in.
Case in point: Rafael Nadal, a top seeded player was defeated on his first match.
Top tier players play at night
Tickets available are for the day sessions (three games), night sessions (two games), and the grounds pass. The day and night sessions gives you access to the courts (either Rod Laver or Margaret Court) to watch the games, while the grounds pass only allows you admission into Melbourne Park. If you have tickets to watch the games, you can freely roam around the entire day (even if you are holding tickets to the night sessions).
You can also watch from the ground level. There are seats at one end, and a standing area on the side. Just make sure you get there early to get a good view.
Cla, Khursten and I bought tickets for the night sessions. Cla and Khursten both have tickets for the first day, while I only have tickets for the second night. As luck would have it, they were able to watch Roger Federer play on the first night, and Rafa Nadal was scheduled for the 2nd day. Unfortunately, since it was Lleyton Hewitt’s last singles tournament, he was given the night game spot on the 2nd night. As soon as we found out the game schedule (it’s released the day before), we lined up at the onsite ticket booth and exchanged our night session tickets for the day session ticket.
If you’re on a budget, but still want to see your idol in person, the grounds pass is okay. You can watch their practice session, and just watch the games from various areas across the grounds. I think you will also be able to watch the games inside the Hisense arena, but you’ll have to line up to get seats.
Make sure to get a seat in the shaded area.
The sunlight in Australia is very harsh, so wearing sunscreen is strongly advised, along with a hat that shades your face and neck. Since Khursten and I were used to the weather here already, we forgot to tell Cla. She underestimated the UV rays, and was sunburned for days.
January is also the peak of the summer season in Australia, with the hottest days recorded usually during the Australian Open. On the first day of AO, temperatures soared up to 38°C. While it’s really tempting to wear as little as possible to combat the heat, a thin long sleeved top can greatly help you avoid getting roasted. Also, if it gets too hot outside, you can duck inside the arenas (just not into the main courts) for some air conditioned comfort.
If you are staying for the night session games, make sure to bring something to keep you warm in the evening, as temperature can drop drastically when the sun goes down (typically around 9-10 pm).
I only had one session ticket, and we got lucky because we were able to watch Rafa. Fortunately (or unfortunately), he got drawn to play Fernando Verdasco, and proceeded to have one of their epic matches that lasted for almost 5 hours. At least I got my money’s worth?
Apply for a visa after you buy your ticket online
Cla, who is a first time visitor to Australia, applied for a visa soon after we purchased our tickets online. She made sure to include the ticket with her application, and since she has also watched other Grand Slam tournaments, she included scans of her tickets to them, along with photos of her at the tournament itself (including a screenshot of her on tv in the stands during Roger Federer’s game, and for some reason, a photo of Roger).
Australian Visas are usually valid for 1 year after issuance, so there’s no problem if you apply as early as October for a trip in January. This also gives you ample time to appeal if your application gets denied. Also, visa processing can take up to 40 days, so save yourself the stress and apply early.
Our seats were pretty high up, but at least we were able to see the entire court, and can easily follow the ball without straining our necks. It sucks when a tall person is sitting in front of you, but sometimes, you get lucky and they leave midway through the game.
Opt to stay within the Melbourne CBD
If your main purpose in Melbourne is to watch the games, it would be better for you to stay within the city center. The CBD is actually quite tiny, and you can easily walk from Flinders Street Station to Melbourne park (about 20 mins walk). There are free trams within the CBD, and during the Australian Open last January, tram rides up to Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena were free.
Keep close watch on ausopen.com
If you’re aiming to see a specific player, you can keep track of the game and practice schedules on the AO website. They are usually posted the day before, around midday.
Buy tickets at Federation Square or at Birrarung Marr
If you have extra days in Melbourne and want to head back to Melbourne park, you can buy tickets onsite. There are plenty of ticket stalls in the Melbourne Park Grounds, but you can also buy them from the kiosks at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr. The lines here are markedly shorter than at the main entrance. The prices are the same anyway.
[EDIT] Apparently, they are making some changes in Melbourne Park, so this may change some things.
There are also these huge screens so you can see replays and priceless close ups like this pouty Rafa face.
Bring a picnic
One of the things I love about Australia is that in most places, you’re not forced to buy from overpriced concessionaires at tourist attractions and events. You are welcome to bring your own food and beverages inside the grounds and consume them inside. Just make sure to check what’s not allowed to be brought inside the grounds as stated in their website. Drinking fountains are also in abundance, so just make sure to bring a water bottle. It’s very dry here and can be very hot, so make sure to stay hydrated.
To those watching AO 2017, enjoy! It’s an amazing experience!