The best bits of this year’s tournament, both on and off the court.
The Australian Open is our country’s biggest tennis event, and the first of four yearly Grand Slam tournaments. It kicks off the global tennis calendar, inviting players from across the world to battle it out over two jam-packed weeks. Worldwide audiences make the annual pilgrimage to Melbourne for the spectacle, bringing the ever-evolving Melbourne Park precinct to life.
One of the best things about the Australian Open is that you don’t have to be a die-hard fan to get in on the fun. With food, bars, live music and entertainment aplenty a day out at the tennis has something for everyone.
Whether you’re an avid follower or casual spectator, we’ve put together a guide of all the best bits from this year’s AO to help you plan your experience.
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Snagging a ticket
If you want to really soak up the atmosphere of an excited and passionate crowd, a ground pass is your best bet. From $54 for adults, you’ll have access to the entire outdoor precinct, including the Grand Slam Oval, Garden Square, AO Ballpark and AO Live Stage, as well as entry to all the outdoor courts, including Melbourne Arena.
You could also buy day or night session passes for Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arena, if you’re happy to spend a little more. These allow you to watch whatever matches are on that specific court during the times on your ticket, plus check out everything else in the precinct. Win, win.
Dance away at the AO Live Stage
The AO Live Stage has become a live music destination in its own right, reeling in musical equivalents of the big-name tennis stars. It’s the ultimate summer festival pairing; mixing matches with powerhouse performances.
This year’s stacked lineup boasts six international acts, plus 25 Australians. UK exports Bastille, Example, Billy Idol and Fatboy Slim will be heading down, plus New Zealand duo Broods and Max Frost from the US. There’ll also be performances from Hayden James, Matt Corby and Ziggy Alberts, to name a few.
It’s a lot to choose from, but here’s three performances you’d be stupid to miss:
Kate Miller-Heidke + Seeker Lover Keeper
Pop-powerhouse Kate Miller-Heidke is something of an Australian icon, so it’s only fitting she perform at one of our most iconic sporting events. Remaining relevant in the music scene for over ten years is no easy feat, but Miller-Heidke has achieved this effortlessly. From her Circular Breathing and Curiouser days, to representing Australia at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, Miller-Heidke has earned her place as a household name. She’ll be joined by the equally talented Seeker Lover Keeper, comprised of Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann. Catch the show from 6:10pm on Monday January 27.
Broods + George Alice
New Zealand duo Broods create catchy, glittery tunes that’ll be stuck in your head for days – not that you’ll be mad about it. Songs like ‘Bridges’, ‘Heartlines’ and more recently, ‘Peach’, have put them on the music map, affirming them as global pop wunderkinds. Joining them for this AO Live Stage performance is triple j’s 2019 Unearthed High winner George Alice, hailing from South Australia. Her track ‘Circles’ catapulted the talented teen into the spotlight, and like tennis young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas, she’s one to watch. Be there when George Alice ignites the party from 6:10pm on Tuesday January 28.
Bastille + Max Frost
As tennis players make their return to the Australian Open each year, it’s also becoming something of a pattern for British four-piece Bastille. The indie rockers will be coming back to the AO Live Stage for the second year in a row, having delivered an electrifying performance at last year’s event. They’ve released their new album Doom Days since then, so there’ll be plenty of fresh material for punters to enjoy. They’ll be joined by fellow international guest Max Frost, whose single ‘White Lies’ has proved to be an enduring pop masterpiece. He’ll be kicking things off in the late afternoon, with Bastille closing out the evening. Make sure you’re there when it all gets underway from 4:40pm on Saturday February 1.
Grab a bev and a bite to eat
This year’s event has plenty of food and drink options to satisfy those hunger pangs after a day of court hopping.
The Food Truck Park over at the AO Live Stage will see Beatbox Kitchen slinging burgers, tacos from Mister Alejandro while Andy McNab Kebabs will also be there. And that’s just the start. Alternatively, you can try the AO exclusive ham and mushroom pizza from 400 Gradi at Garden Square.
You’ll find Biggie Smalls, Hellenic Republic and Lavazza coffee at the Grand Slam Oval, as well as Cacao’s dessert stall, featuring pavlova bursting with summer flavours.
Diners also have the option to indulge at five-star restaurants like Nobu and Rockpool, or head over to The Glasshouse for a lavish degustation dinner as part of the Chef Series.
Bars from Coopers, Canadian Club and Aperol will be sure to quench your thirst, and those with dietary requirements can rest assured that they’ve been catered to by the diverse array of food trucks and pop ups.
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It goes without saying that a day in the sun watching the tennis is a sure-fire way to get burnt. Melbourne’s UV rays are particularly harsh, so you need to be liberal and vigilant when slathering on that sunscreen. SPF 50+ is going to be your best friend, as are a hat, sunglasses and a reusable water bottle (as long as it’s not glass). There’ll be shaded areas and water stations dotted around the precinct too, so remember to make the most of them.
For the kids
If you’re coming along with kids in tow, you’ll be glad to know there’s heaps to keep them occupied. The expanded AO Ballpark is a child’s paradise and bound to tucker them out, featuring a zipline, climbing wall, go carts, an obstacle course and even a water park. Kids over ten can also enjoy the AO Hilltop, which is decked out with a water gun splash zone and 35-metre high SkyFlyer ride, which offers some spectacular city views.
Youngsters from five to 12 can be dropped off at the AO Kids Club for day and night sessions, where they’ll be kept busy while you catch a match. Check out the AO Kids Club page on the event website to book them in.
Ones to watch
With all the extra entertainment around, it’s easy to almost forget about the main event – the tennis. You’ll be able to catch matches from the big-name stars, but they’re not the only ones to keep an eye on.
Stefanos Tsitsipas shot to Australian Open fame last year when he knocked out Roger Federer, and is hoping to bump up his world No.6 ranking at this year’s event. The Greek 21-year-old will have some stiff competition and could face big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, court general and cunning 9th-seed Roberto Bautista-Agut and eventually Novak Djokovic in his run to the title.
Over in the women’s singles and Australia’s own Ash Barty has been solidly defending her world No.1 ranking. She’ll have to hold her own in an extremely strong women’s field that features the likes of last year’s champ Naomi Osaka, Czech big-hitter Karolina Pliskova, Romania’s Simona Halep and a Serena Williams more motivated than ever before.
The playing schedule is updated daily on the Australian Open website, so check in to see who’s on.
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