Australian Open to all

With another year of record crowds expected through the gates of Melbourne Park, it’s pretty easy to assume that Tennis Australia must be doing something well.

Of course, they’re aided by having the world’s best tennis players in action for two weeks during the school holidays, but the overall package that the fan gets to see has dramatically evolved, to showcase the Australian Open as an entertainment extravaganza, and not just a few tennis matches.

For those lucky few that get to experience the awe and atmosphere in Rod Laver Arena, the Australian Open can be a magnificent experience. But in order to obtain the record crowds, some thinking has gone into making the experience for the everyday reveller just as exciting.

For somewhere around AUD$40 fans can get themselves a ‘ground pass’, which gives them access to all arenas bar Rod Laver and Hi-Sense. What that gives them, is magnificent access to players on the outside courts- especially early in the tournament.

“The top seeds [on Rod Laver Arena] win 6-0, 6-0, and you don’t want to go and see a couple of one hour games for upwards of $80,” tennis fan Ben Sathananthan said.

“For the first couple of days especially, the ground pass is great value. The first day [of tennis] there were 9 five set matches.”

He is right, of course. Early rounds mean upwards of 200 players vouching for supremacy on the outside courts. The likes of Del Potro, Baghdatis, Ferrer, Ivanovic, Radwanska and Li have all played on Margaret Court Arena or lower in the first three days alone.

The Heineken Live stage at Melbourne Park

Then of course, lower ranked players face off with one another, providing entertaining tennis, in the form of contested matches, something that may be absent on the main courts early in the Open.

It’s not all about the tennis, however. In order to entice punters along to enjoy the day at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia and its sponsors organise entertainment, activities and giveaways in the form of Grand Slam Oval – a precinct which houses activities such as fastest serve competitions, beach tennis games, zorb balls and more.

In addition, live bands are heard nightly on the stage at Grand Slam Oval. But not just any bands, world class acts from Australia and sometimes around the world are invited to participate. Daryl Braithwaite and Bluejuice are regular contributors, as is Jason Singh. Wolfmother are also set to perform this year, along with big names Julia Stone and Evermore.

“There’s a lot of stuff to do,” Ben Sathananthan admits. But he regresses.

“There are a lot of people though… a forty minute wait for some of the activities is not quite worth it.”

As the tennis and temperature heats up, so too does the action off the court, with Melbourne Park playing host to one of the most interactive sites in the world for patrons that wish to make a day of going to the tennis.

Just make sure you get in early.

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