If you’ve never done it (and there can’t be many of you), it’s about time you get along to Melbourne Park in January for the Australian Open, and give it a go. Even if your interest in tennis is mild, there’s plenty to do before you’ve even clapped eyes on a match.
That said, it’s worth watching a bit of tennis – even non-fans can find themselves swept up in the atmosphere courtside.
What pass to get
A ground pass is the best option for entry-level tennis fans. From $54, you’ll have access to all the outdoor courts, including non-reserved seating in Melbourne Arena from 10am in the morning until end of play that evening.
What to do (besides from watching the tennis)
Every year, the AO Live Stage attracts thousands of visitors who prefer to combine their tennis with live music. From January 13 to 27, the AO Live Stage will host some of your favourite acts from Australia and overseas. Headline artists this year include UK R&B star Craig David, Bastille (UK), Angus and Julia Stone and some key support acts across the 15 days such as Jebediah, Alex Lahey and Something for Kate.
The stage is at Birrarung Marr, a short walk from the outdoor courts. There, you’ll also find big screens showing live tennis, so you can keep an eye on the matches between sets. Access to the AO Live Stage is included with your ground-pass ticket and it opens from 3pm daily (except for Coopers Saturday on January 19, when the stage is open from 10am).
Rounding out the entertainment offering is the inaugural Australian Open Sports Film Festival, accessible with your ground pass. From Monday January 14 to Sunday January 27, there will be three daily screenings across three locations: the AO Ballpark, the Glasshouse and the AO Festival at Birrarung Marr. The full schedule is available now. Think classics like Space Jam, Bend it Like Beckham, The Mighty Ducks and Rocky, with newer favourites like Battle of the Sexes, I, Tonya and The Blind Side thrown in. (By the by, if you’re bringing kids, visiting the AO Ballpark is a good idea – it includes ANZ Tennis Hot Shots Courts and a 12 meter water slide with a super soaker play zone).
What to eat
A long day at the tennis will require sustenance. The good news is, whether you’re splashing out or on a budget, there’s a range of options provided by some of the city’s best eateries. At Grand Slam Oval, vendors include Biggie Smalls kebabs; Mamasita for modern Mexican; Australian Open Asian-fusion exclusive Beijing Betty; San Antone for barbeque cuisine; Barilla Pasta; Burger Project; Aperol x 400 Gradi serving spritzes and pizza; the Piper-Heidsieck champagne bar; and Lavazza coffee.
At the AO Live Stage, The Food Truck Park will feature a range of bars, and food from Mary and a Little Lamb, Miso Fresh, Wingsters, and OG Burgers, while the AO Festival site will include Huxtaburger, and Hunky Dory seafood.
There’s a reason the Australian Open is so enduringly popular – aside from being one of the world’s great sporting events and one of only four Grand Slams in the world, it’s a unique day out with a lively, infectious atmosphere. Tennis fan or not, it’s worth checking out this summer.
Originally published by Broadsheet on 7 January 2019. Written by Amelia Barnes. Photography by Simon Shiff.