The Australian Open enters a new era as a 15-day tournament for its 2024 edition, and organisers are looking to raise the bar for what is already acknowledged to be one of the best fan experiences in world sport.
Earlier this month, Tennis Australia revealed that the opening grand slam of the season will become a 15-day event for the first time next year, with a view to ending the late-night finishes that have concerned both players and fans.
The Melbourne Park-based tournament will now take place from January 14-28 next year, with a Sunday start increasing the number of sessions in the three arenas from 47 to 52. This year’s Open set a new record attendance for a grand slam, as 902,312 fans entered the gates across three weeks of competition.
AO Courtside Bar
In the wake of the tournament expansion announcement on October 3, Tennis Australia has detailed further improvements to the Open fan experience. Introduced this year, Opening Week, which was designed to solidify the Open as a three-week festival of sport and entertainment, is being enhanced for 2024.
This will include AO qualifying, daily Open practice sessions in Rod Laver Arena, four exhibition and charity matches, thousands of racquets given away to kids, and the return of Kids Tennis Day on January 13.
The AO Courtside Bar, a two-storey structure overlooking Court 6, will debut, with Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley outlining the expectation that this will create a ‘party court’.
A concept that is being studied for a wider roll-out across Melbourne Park, the AO Courtside Bar will offer more than 400 fans an experience where they can choose from a drinks menu and enjoy gourmet bar bites by Sydney chef Joel Bennetts, with a bird’s-eye view of all the tennis action below.
A rotating roster of DJs will also be on hand to entertain during Opening Week.
Garden Square is also being expanded, with pavilions providing thousands of square metres of additional shade in an effort to make the tennis and entertainment more comfortable and enjoyable for fans.
“Presenting new and exciting ways for fans to enjoy the AO, and creating memorable moments is a signature of our event, it’s a big part of our point of difference and we can’t wait to deliver more terrific experiences in 2024,” Tennis Australia chief commercial officer Cedric Cornelis said.
“The new AO Courtside Bar will literally ‘raise the bar’ in our food and beverage offerings and we know fans will love the wining, dining and tennis from this new, elevated perspective.
“Garden Square, an icon of the AO and home to the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame, has also been reimagined. A stunning new shade pavilion and the rolling expanse of lawn will make it an oasis at the heart of the AO, where fans can comfortably enjoy an unforgettable day at the tennis.
“Also debuting in 2024 is the brand-new European marketplace, fittingly situated at the north of the precinct… as some of Melbourne’s most-loved Italian eateries bring ‘La Dolce Vita’ to the AO in January.”
A summer festival experience will take over Grand Slam Oval, with a variety of bars and food options at the renowned party precinct of the AO. The viewing experience will also be taken to the next level, with a giant screen displaying anamorphic illusions, making fans feel like they are in the front row of Rod Laver Arena.
For the younger fan, the AO Ballpark presented by Emirates will provide even more ‘racquet-in-hand’ experiences, with the new Hot Shots HQ offering Hot Shots Tennis and more ways to play. The Splash Zone, featuring an array of water-based activities, will be on hand, as will the eight-metre Emirates Sky Tower experience – a dedicated entertainment stage for kids and a sensory room.
An expanded Finals Festival will feature at John Cain Arena with the court transformed into a live music venue for the final four days of the AO, wrapping up what is always a highly anticipated event on the international sporting calendar.