A much delayed review of the 2018 Australian Open.
The Australian Open came and went in the blink of an eye. What started with a crazy first week of pull outs, upsets and huge tennis matches, we ended with a bang as Roger Federer captured his 20th major title.
I had a fabulous time at the Australian Open because well… I love tennis. And while watching Federer capture his 20th title live will be one of my favourite Australia memories of all time, I can’t help but feel that the Happy slam is starting to go downhill. The Australian Open enjoys year on year growth and every year it gets “bigger and better”. But has it really?
I’m going to pick on the two most popular experiences for the Australian Open: the grounds pass and Rod Laver sessions.
The ground’s pass used to be a great option for both the casual fan and the tennis enthusiast. At $40 some odd dollars a few years ago, it granted you full access to all the outdoor courts and general admission to Hisense Arena. The price is now up to $60 and the experience is greatly reduced with the introduction of reserved seating within Hisense Arena. The worst part of the reserved seating is that it’s in the best viewing areas behind the players. If you don’t have a ticket, you can’t seat there even if the seats are empty.
Numerous years ago, show court 1 was transformed into Margaret Court Arena and become a separate ticketed venue. This again eroded the ground’s pass experience but it seemed reasonable. Most slams seem have two major stadiums which are ticketed. With the ticketing of Hisense, I think the organizers have gone too far. It’s a major price gouge considering that Hisense is the only major stadium that ground’s pass users get access to. Another thing that is starting to hurt the experience is that they don’t cap admission for weekend access. The weekend sessions get overly crowded and it’s very hard to catch much tennis. After all you can’t watch if you can’t get into the full stadiums/courts. It’s a real shame. The open has a larger attendance every year and it’s natural for people to want to attend on the weekend. However, overcrowding hurts everyone’s viewing experience and a fun day of watching tennis may just turn into queueing most of the day.
As mentioned in my Australian Open guide, Rod Laver Arena is the place where they give priority to the biggest names or the biggest matchups of the day (there is a preference to showcase Australian players which can sometimes push big names off to MCA or Hisense). The thing that shocked me the most when I bought tickets this year was the immense price increase compared to what I paid only 2 years ago. A category 2 ticket in the quarter finals could set you back upwards of $300. I didn’t check exact numbers but that same ticket was at least 25% cheaper 2 years ago. I honestly don’t know any casual fans who would splash out this sort of cash for RLA. And while it’s great to have the most dedicated fans who would sell their kidney fill the stadium, it hurts the growth of the sport by pricing out casual fans. I got into tennis because I watched the biggest superstars play on the biggest stage. It wasn’t watching the #100 player in the world play a qualifier on the outside courts.
The Aussie open has done a lot of good things in regards to adding things to do for kids, maintaining their choices for food and being accessible for all types of people. But the price gouging is now overshadowing what was once an affordable sports event. Even as hardcore tennis fan, I’m hesitant to continue supporting them. I attended numerous RLA sessions this year including the grand final. If the organizers are going down this path, I can’t say I’ll do the same next year.
I’d also like to note that the AO Live areas with the free viewings has also taken a hit. The first year I was here, they had 2 separate areas to view the TV’s and it was much more spacious. Since then, they have condensed it into 1 smaller area for the past 2 years.
Did you attend the open? What did you think of the experience? Is it still worth the money?