Access and the worlds top tennis
I am a big tennis fan and was thrilled to receive a Disability and Special Needs booking form in the mail, for The Australian Open Tennis Championships. It arrived months before bookings opened. There was plenty of time to send it to the Australian Open special needs office to request a booking. I went last year, and was most impressed. This year was even better as I was able to book wheelchair shade seating in the main venue, the Rod Laver Arena.
There were many other changes from last year too. The redevelopment that started in 2010 was well underway. Stage 1, estimated to cost AUD $366 million, will be completed for the 2015 Australian Open. The redevelopment includes:
- A new retractable roof and additional seating for Margaret Court Arena
- New landscaping and rainwater harvesting system
- Upgrades to Hisense Arena
- A National Tennis Centre with eight new indoor courts, 13 outdoor courts and other facilities for elite training
- A new footbridge over Olympic Boulevard to complete the pedestrian link from the MCG to AAMI Park
- Multi level car parking for up to 1,000 cars and 28 buses.
Stage 2 has also commenced and that will include an upgrade to Rod Laver Arena, a new pedestrian link to the CBD and a new shaded town square area.
Further information on the work is at http://www.mpv.vic.gov.au
The first big Australian tennis championships took place in 1905 in Melbourne at the Albert Reserve Tennis Centre. The name of the event and player status changed over time. The first Australian Open, where professionals could play as well, was in 1969 at the Milton Courts in Brisbane.
Melbourne shared the event with other cities until 1972 when organisers decided to hold the event in the same city each year. They chose Melbourne because it had the biggest patronage at Kooyong. The crowds grew too big for Kooyong and by 1988; Melbourne Park was constructed. There was a change too in the court surface. Grass became hard court in that year.
The Australian Open, the Grand Slam of Asia Pacific, is the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events of the year. It features men's, women's, junior, wheelchair, quad wheelchair, legends and exhibition events. The attendance this year was 684,457. The prize money was the highest yet with a total of AUD $30 million.
There is an Australian Open special needs office, a disability and special needs form for booking and a facilities map. There are reserved seats in the arenas and ground passes. Some disabled parking is available and companion cards are recognised. There are wheelchair accessible routes to all the courts and wheelchair viewing bays at Rod Laver, Hisense, Margaret Court Arenas and three show courts. There is lift access and disabled toilets at multiple points outside and inside the two biggest arenas.
I had good seating with a great view and lots of shade to protect me from the sun. I enjoyed watching the Day Session of the quarterfinals. The young Sloane Stephens kept her cool and defeated Serena Williams who smashed her racquet. Victoria Azarenka, who went on later to win the final, played Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andy Murray played Jeremy Chardy. Jeremy from France, ranked number 69, surprised everyone to reach the quarterfinals but lost.
I caught the tram into the city and back on my scooter. It was easy going to Melbourne Park through Birrarung Mar. The pathways along the Yarra River are very scenic. I will be back next year.
For more information on disability access to the Australian Open, visit their website: