Each year in January, Australia’s sole Grand Slam tennis tournament “takes over” Melbourne—but this year, that phrase is more literal than ever. With its epicentre still within the grounds of Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas, the Australian Open will evolve into more of a city-wide event than a confined (albeit substantial) spectacle, representing the largest Gram Slam footprint in world tennis.
Outside of the stadiums—where the world’s top 100 male and female tennis stars will compete for a prize pool of approximately $70 million—the action will flow through to Federation Square and Birrarung Marr.
Giant screens will be set up in Federation Square to accommodate free and live viewing of the tournament, alongside a range of food and entertainment options. Meanwhile, in Birrarung Marr, the AO Ballpark has doubled in size, taking over both the upper and lower terraces of the precinct with a variety of kids’ activities such as a climbing wall, zipline, kart racing and a program of live entertainment options.
Of course, the calibre of on-court talent is predictably top-tier. On the men’s side, defending world number one Novak Djokovic will return alongside heel-biting rivals Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Danil Medvedev. A mix of reigning champions and emerging legends will be represented in the women’s competition, with names including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Kim Clijsters, who will be returning after an eight-year absence from the sport.
Good news for the aspiring tennis stars among us: the fan experience will no longer be confined to the sidelines thanks to a new partnership between Tennis Australia and sports game developer Big Ant Studios, who have created AO Tennis 2. This interactive video game experience draws from real match statistical data that replicates the styles of players such as Nadal and Barty, and allows users to “play” alongside them.
Big names beget big names, and this year, the AO Stage will see global rock icon Billy Idol headlining the music component. Other artists to perform during the tournament include Bastille, Craig David, Flight Facilities and Angus & Julia Stone.
This is just scratching the surface of what will be happening across Melbourne throughout the 15-day tournament. For the full sporting, entertainment and dining program, visit the Australian Open website. The Australian Open will run from 20 January to 2 February 2020.