First published on 6 Jan 2012. Updated on 1 May 2013.
Melbourne’s marvellous month of tennis kicks off in the genteel suburb of Kooyong where eight of the world’s top male players – including Roddick, Monfils, Tomic and Tsonga – ‘warm up’ for the Australian Open. Each plays three matches over the four days and although the stakes are lower, the beauty of The AAMI Kooyong Classic is its intimacy. You’re so close to the players you can see the sweat rolling off their foreheads and the speed of the ball. If you’re a diehard fan, players walk through the crowds to the stadium before their matches, so you can squeal, "Oh my god! I love you Andy Roddick!" and he may just turn his head.
Next up is The Australian Open. This grand slam tournament is two weeks of high octane men’s and women’s singles, doubles, wheelchair, junior and legends matches. Over 600,000 people descend on Melbourne Park to see fluffy balls fly. Whether you go for a ground pass or a ticket to Rod Laver Arena, there will no doubt be marathon five set matches, memorable dummy spits and ‘hot shots’ that defy the laws of gravity. Scream: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi" when our Lleyton Hewitt (coming back from a foot injury) scrambles for an impossible forehand or when giant killer Bernard Tomic is scaring off the higher seeds. Keep an eye out for new kid on the block, Ashleigh Barty, a 15-year-old Queenslander who won her way through the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off for a spot in the main draw.
You don’t have to know what ‘topspin’ or a ‘let’ is to enjoy the event. Sometimes-tennis-lovers will appreciate the fine weather, carnival atmosphere, live bands, beer garden, outfits (what will Serena wear this year?) and the catchy chanting from patriotic fans.