As part of my 70th birthday, I decided to take my tennis/sporting friends to the Australian Open. We did a version of this 30 years ago and really enjoyed it. What was the experience like?The Background: Why?

I love sport and tennis particularly. We had a great time last year when we went to the Open for a single day and discovered the event had gone from a tennis-oriented event to an entertainment-oriented event, around a major tennis tournament. 30 years ago, my wife and I had taken it in turns to take a friend while the other watched our young children. Now, child-free, and time-rich, it seemed like a great way to celebrate a week of my birthday year.

So we booked 4 tickets to Rod Laver and/or Margaret Court Arenas for 8 straight days. Friends said it would be too much, but they were keen to join us for a day themselves.
By the end, I came to the following conclusions:

1. Tennis needs to be entertaining!
Despite seeing high quality players, most of the matches turned out to be straight set affairs. What made for highlight matches and days were matches that:
– Were close(the loser won a set)
– Had upset results (seeds lost, underdogs won)
– Emotionally involved the crowd through interesting players (unusual styles, varied skills, emotional) or partisan fans (Barty party, Greeks, Hungarians)
– Had many breaks of service (nothing worse than game after game of held services)

2. Tennis should be 3 sets and maybe should feature mainly tiebreaker games

After 3 sets (2-3 hours) of the two players, I had seen enough really, and wanted the next pair to take the court. Tiebreak games were by far the most engaging. Perhaps the rules should be changed to feature mainly tiebreakers (eg x tiebreakers makes the set).

3. Most umpire challenges fail

Although line-call challenges are interesting, on my count, only around 25% of challenges succeeded. The umpires are almost always right! Other more formal studies confirm this.

4. Our friends are very generous

They all offered to bring lunch and treats for us and bought us coffees and wine as well! It was delightful to share their company and to be ‘taken out’ each day to a different ‘restaurant’, usually featuring home-based food. Much better than buying food there.

Also, our friends really appreciated the gift of the seats. The unexpected nature of it and having good seats seemed to be important, which was surprising, as corporates seem to find it hard to give away their expensive seats.

5. Sustainability is gradually winning out

Our friends used reusable plastic containers and keep cups, minimising throwaways. I noticed rows of insulated reusable bottles of water as the key refreshment in many parts of the stadium. And all the waste was being collected for recycling, using co-mingling, making it easy for fans. Quite different from a few years ago.

An Overall View

As we reflected on the first morning after the 8 days ended, we felt we had enjoyed it more than even expected. We didn’t get ‘tired’ of the tennis. We enjoyed the extended time with friends around an activity that wasn’t food-based.  I went to a concert after the tennis one day, which was a lovely personal highlight.  And we wondered if we might repeat it next year…


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