Shopping and schmoozing were the order of play at the historic opening Sunday of the Australian Open tennis, reports Editor at Large Louise Evans
Starting a grand slam tennis event on a Sunday for the first time paid off handsomely at the 2024 Australian Open with a record-breaking, opening-day crowd of 87,705 queuing for courts, couture and catering.
The biggest crowds away from the courts were for the four large on-site merchandising outlets which were crammed with shoppers jostling for Ralph Lauren, New Balance and AO branded gear and souvenirs.
The 4,000-plus AO workforce, including all on-court officials, ball people and on-site ground staff, were doubling as mannequins – decked out in uniforms styled and boldly branded by American label Ralph Lauren, which has signed-on as the official outfitter of the Australian Open for a fourth consecutive year.
Fans obviously like the look judging by the lines queueing to buy the merchandise.
The prices, while high, were not outrageous, with $50 T-shirts and caps, $25 drink bottles and $15 key rings proving very popular with the crowd, which was almost 10,000 more than the 2023 opening-day figure.
The merchandise experience was well executed with plenty of assistants on hand to help with sizes and restocking shelves.
There were even fitting rooms available to try things on, and once you’d selected your stash there were 14 people manning the check-out points to take your money.
Being a Sunday which was cool but not wet, many people bought a $59 adult ground pass to spend the day posing and posting at Melbourne Park.
The catering outlets were bursting, especially the new Aperol Terrezza bar which had long queues just to get in and buy a red drink in a plastic cup.
Tennis Australia signed a multi-year partnership with Campari Australia to install Aperol as its official aperitif from 2024.
But wait there’s more – the Terrezza boasts a 15m-long bar, daggy bean bags, more comfortable lounges and an elevated cabana with a view of the big screen showing the centre court live broadcast spliced with music played between matches and at set changes.
The Sunday start makes the AO a 15-day event, which is aimed at spreading the matches out to prevent late finishes – for example the painful six-hour Andy Murray v Thanasi Kokkinakis match which ended at 4am last year.
The post-midnight play was very unpopular with players, broadcasters and crowds hence the schedule change which is proving extremely profitable. What’s better than 14 days of tennis – Duh.
Louise Evans is an award-winning journalist who has worked around Australia and the world as a reporter, foreign correspondent, editor and media executive for media platforms including The Sydney Morning Herald (eight years), The Australian (11 years) and Australian Associated Press (six years in London, Beijing and Sydney).
A women sports’ pioneer, Louise was the first female sports journalist employed by The Sydney Morning Herald and the first female sports editor at The Australian. Louise went on to work at six Olympic Games, six Commonwealth Games and numerous world sporting championships and grand slam tennis events.
Louise is the Founding Editor of AAP FactCheck, the Creator of #WISPAA – Women in Sport Photo Action Awards and national touring Exhibition and the author and producer of the Passage to Pusan book, documentary and exhibition.
In 2019 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) Queen’s Honour for services to the media and sport and named an Australian Financial Review Top 100 Woman of Influence for services to the arts, culture and sport.
In 2020 she won a NSW Volunteer of the Year Award plus the NSW Government Community Service Award for her women-in-sport advocacy work.