*Editors Note: This is a guest post by Melinda Samson aka Grand Slam Gal. Melinda joined Grand Slam Tennis Tours as a guest in New York for the US Open and has enjoyed our amazing seats in Rod Laver down in Melbourne. In 2012 Melinda achieved a life goal by attending the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same year to complete the ‘fan slam’. You can read more articles about the tennis fan experience at tournaments around the world at www.grandslamgal.com
As a Melbourne local and huge tennis fan I love having the Australian Open as my home slam. I’ve been attending this tournament pretty much every year since 1989 and have seen a myriad of changes as the tournament, grounds and attendee numbers have expanded.
A key part of what makes this tournament extra special is the commitment of the Australian Open team to continually providing an exceptional fan experience, both on the grounds and online via their website and social media.
I also love the:
- High quality intense matches, often involving up and coming players
- Access and affordability of great tickets inside RLA and MCA.
- Huge grounds that are only a short walk from Melbourne’s central business district
- Way the city of Melbourne and locals get fully immersed in the tennis experience
- Colours of the grounds and player outfits
- Sponsors and all the activities they offer at the grounds.
And then, there’s the Practice Courts
The Australian Open commitment to the fan experience is clearly demonstrated via the well organised practice courts, which are one of my favourite parts of the Australian Open.
Access to view the practice courts is available to all ticket holders, meaning that everyone from Ground Pass to Rod Laver Arena ticket holders can watch top players practicing from a short distance away.
The Practice Courts are easily accessible within the grounds. You don’t need to walk miles to get to them so it’s easy to make a quick visit during the breaks between matches in the main arenas. A schedule is published so that it’s easy to find out who is practicing on what court and therefore you can plan your day accordingly.
Where are the Practice Courts Located?
The main practice courts are courts 16, 17 and 18. The top seeded players will usually be scheduled on these courts. They are located near Hisense Arena and can be viewed from the observation bridge above the courts and along one side of the courts on ground level.
Other outside courts are also used for practice sessions so keep an eye on the schedule. You’ll find a map of the grounds showing where all courts are located at http://www.tennis.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AO2016-Map-Grounds.pdf
Where do I Find the Practice Courts Schedule?
In previous years the practice schedule was available each day on the Australian Open website and there are light boxes around the grounds where you can see the full day’s practice schedule.
I suggest checking the schedule before you head to the grounds and making a note of the practice sessions you want to see. To the best of my knowledge the schedule isn’t available via the Aus Open app but might be in 2017.
Tips for Viewing Australian Open Player Practice Sessions
If you’re hoping to get an autograph or selfie with a player you need to be near the front along the fence line on ground level. Many fans are fully aware of this and will arrive an hour or two ahead of the session in order to be at the front, particularly for players like Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. So don’t expect to turn up at the last minute and push through to the front to get an autograph:)
I like to watch the practices from the observation deck. The crowd there can be three or four people deep but I’ve found it effective to ask nicely to be let to the front to get some photos and then move back.
Also be aware that sometimes players don’t show up for their practices and you might not be advised so you may need to wait around for a while until the official word is given that the session is cancelled.
Unless you’re on the observation deck you’ll be outside to watch the practices so come prepared for hot weather conditions with a hat, sun screen and water.
The information included in this article is based on my experience at the Australian Open in previous years, and may be different in 2017. Regardless, if you want to see tennis players from a close vantage point I highly recommend a visit to the practice courts as part of your Australian Open experience.