I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open 2019 (AO). I remember training and competing at Melbourne Park as a professional, and it certainly has a sort of magnetic feel about it. I was always there just prior to the event or once the event had concluded, so I wondered just how the event delivered as a spectator.
I can’t believe it was my first time spectating at the Australian Open. There was so much to do, from watching players train on the practice courts, to having a drink or food from the numerous bars available, to watching matches on the big screen at Garden Square or at the Grand Slam Oval, to shopping for some merchandise, to taking some snaps with all of the quirky installations around Melbourne Park (my favourite was the tennis ball installation at show court 3). It was so much fun and a great day out!
A few things really stood out for me as a former player, current coach and spectator.
I overheard so much criticism of the players, their form and performance by spectators. This was extremely surprising to me as I didn’t really expect that level of criticism from spectators to overpower the sheer brilliance that was on display. The power, athleticism, energy and passion that every player displayed had me immersed in the actual performance and game itself. This was evident from all players on any court, whether they were competing as a junior, for their college team or the main event. The grand slams are where the most elite in our sport have qualified through to, which takes at least 12-18 months of solid performances against your peers to do so, and every player on those tennis courts have earned their right to be there in my opinion.
It doesn’t take you very long to realise that the Australian Open is heavily backed by many sponsors. This was evident from the brand signage everywhere, multiple pop up stores, freebies being handed out, VIP access only areas (I was directed to move along about 3 times within a few hours lol I honestly could not tell what area was VIP and what wasn’t). It’s certainly a marketer’s dream to be able to play a role in this event for sure. I liked how brands such as Sheridan and Country Road were behind some of the AO merchandise such as the towels, t-shirts and polos. I’ve always seen those two brands as iconic to Australia and it’s only fitting that they collaborated with the AO. I personally believe more local brands should be showcased at this event, as it is the Australian Open and what better time to do so?
Welcome to the shot clock! I kind of had to think twice for a second, thinking that I had purchased a ticket to a basketball game (and no, not because Nick Kyrgios was showcasing his new kicks or NBA jersey). It’s not a bad idea, but there are multiple changes that are occuring in the sport due to technology, and I believe the way they perform should be reviewed as well. The shot clock gives players 25 seconds to hit the next serve, but what about after they miss the first serve? Players are taking a further 1o seconds before hitting that serve at times. Let’s talk about Hawk Eye. Hawk Eye has come into effect for a while now but players are still able to challenge the umpires call, which I still don’t agree should be the case. On top of that, should a player make a correct challenge, the umpire then makes a judgement call whether or not to replay the point should they believe a player ‘had a hit on the shot’ or Could not play the ball. If Hawk Eye has the ‘final call’ then why not introduce what we saw at the Fast4 event in Sydney, where there were no linesmen or lineswomen, just an automatic ‘out’ call via infrared sensors on the court, tracking the balls movement and landing, leaving us with no controversy. The umpire does not need to make any active line calls in my opinion. There is still quite a bit of grey area with technology and the sport of tennis and at the highest level it doesn’t take much to win/lose a match. I hope to see less grey area in the future of the sport.
The Australian Open 2020, here I come 🙂