Guide to Attending a Grand Slam Tennis Tournament

This guide is a work in progress, and I'll update it whenever I attend a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Attending a Grand Slam is quite a project, as you need to take care of the transportation, accommodation, and ticketing.

So far, I have attended three majors, the Roland Garros in 2009, the Australian Open and the US Open in 2011.

Wimbledon will have to wait...

Grand Slam tennis tournament

General Travel Advice

In most cases, you'll be travelling from abroad and you'll be flying into the main city where the tournament is held.

As you know, the Australian Open is held in Melbourne, the French Open in Paris, Wimbledon in London, and the US Open in New York.

How to Get the Best Airfare

One thing to keep in mind is that the earlier you plan your trip, the better options and cheaper airfare you can get.

My suggestion is that you plan your trip between six months and three months before the tournament begins.

Here's what you need to do:

1. Research your flight connections through websites that cover major airlines. These include: kayak.com, orbitz.com, and jetabroad.com.au.

2. Check if you can get your flight through one of the cheap airlines, like easyjet.com, ryanair.com, jetblue.com, and others.

3. Once you have a general idea of the airlines and the prices, go to airlines' official websites and check your prices there. In most cases, their prices will be lower as the intermediate websites and agents take a share of your payment for the ticket.

Getting the Most Affordable Hotels

If you cannot afford a hotel, there are still good options for getting comfortable accommodations. Couch Surfing (http://www.couchsurfing.org/) allows you to get a room at someone's place for a very low price.

Please read all the FAQ and advice on the website to make sure you're not disappointed with this choice.

If, on the other hand, you plan to stay in the hotel, keep two things in mind:
  • the distance of the hotel to the tournament grounds, and

  • the distance of the hotel to the main city’s mass transportation systems (underground, trains, and buses).
There are a few great websites where you can look for a hotel based on the distance to the tournament arena.

Search for hotel near the tennis tournament
At Hotels.com and Tripadvisor.com you can simply select dates and in the Location field type one of the following:

- Rod Laver Arena Melbourne, Australia

- Stade de Roland Garros, Paris, France

- Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, London, UK

- USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

You'll get a list of hotels sorted by the distance to the venue. You can then narrow your choices by price, amenities, and other factors.

You can also use Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) and type in the same queries and then do a search for nearby hotels.

Google Maps search for a hotel

Once you've narrowed down your choices, book the hotel through the above websites or, even better, go to the hotel's official website and book through them.

If you're looking for a cheaper option and don't mind some surprises (in most cases positive ones), do a search on hotwire.com.

Hotwire makes special deals with hotels and allows you to book hotels in the particular area of your choice but without telling you exactly at which hotel you'll stay.

Hotwire search for a hotel

Note: the cheapest hotels will be those far away from the centre of the town or the main venue you want to attend.

Always keep in mind the distance to your main destination when choosing a hotel either through hotwire.com, agoda.com, or other booking websites.

Buying The Tickets

The best and the safest way of getting the tickets is through official websites. All main websites have a section on tickets, and it's best to buy through those.

US Open tennis tickets

Here's a list of all major Grand Slam tournament websites:

1. Australian Open
2. Roland Garros
3. Wimbledon
4. US Open

There are tons of other websites online that sell tickets, but many of them charge a lot more than an official ticket costs and many are fraudulent websites.

Keep these tips in mind when you're buying the tickets:

The top seeds (in most cases the top 2-4 seeds) ALWAYS play on the paid center courts. If you want to see Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal play live, you'll need to buy a ticket to main stadiums.

There are two main stadiums at all four Grand Slams. The organizers alternate the main seeds between those two courts, but of course you don't know in advance where, for example, Rafael Nadal will play in the first few rounds.

So to make sure you'll see Rafa play on a Grand Slam, you need to buy tickets for at least 4 days. That's because he will play only every second day and you don't know which these will be.

For example, the Australian Open 2011 featured Roger Federer (2nd seed) and Novak Djokovic (3rd seed) on the first day, and Rafael Nadal (1st seed) and Robin Soderling (4th seed) on the second day.

Australian Open 2011 Day 1 schedule

In most cases, Rafa will play his first match on the main center court; but of course, it's possible that he will play on the second center court, for which you would need to buy a different ticket.

The next problem is with the day and night sessions, as you don't know when you're favorite player will play. The day and night sessions are played only at the Australian Open and US Open, while at Roland Garros and Wimbledon your ticket is valid for the whole day, as the players typically do not play under lights.

Each Grand Slam requires a different way of obtaining the tickets. Getting tickets for the Roland Garros and Australian Open is, in my opinion, the easiest, while getting the tickets for Wimbledon is the most complex and difficult.

There are different types of tickets, for example:
  • individual tickets for Center Court A or B
  • individual tickets for outside courts
  • Player pack / Corporate package

A ticket to any center court is numbered and you book a seat on that court for a specific day and time of play (in case of day and night sessions). That same ticket also allows you to access all outside courts except the other center court.

A ticket for only outside courts is not numbered, so you can take any seat you want at any time. You don't have access to any of the center courts.

The Player Pack / Corporate Package is typically very expensive (400 Euros and more) and includes good seats, tours of the player's areas, gifts, and other benefits.

The example below is from the Roland Garros 2011 Grand Slam tournament.

Corporate package at Roland Garros 2011

More Tips on How to Make the Best of Your Trip

1. The best time to visit is in the first week of the tournament. You'll be able to see most of the players attending the Grand Slam and there will be some great matches even on outside courts. The second week starts with more doubles play and the junior tournament. Most of the main matches will be played on the main center courts.

2. The best seats, in my opinion, are behind the baselines. If you sit there, you won't have to move your head left and right all the time and you'll be able to see much better the tactics and the accuracy of the players.

Good seat at the tournament

Though on most outside courts, you won't be able to sit behind the players. But it's really great to watch them up close, especially if you sit parallel to the baseline.

Tommy Haas at Roland Garros 2009

3. If a match between two big names is scheduled on an outside court, it's quite possible that you won't be able to get in at all if you come too late. When I attended the Roland Garros in 2009, I wanted to see Andy Roddick play and had to come one match before it to watch some ladies doubles in order to get a good seat for Andy's match. When that match started, Show Court 2 at Roland Garros was completely full and most people stayed until the end so almost no one else was able to come late and still see any part of the match.

4. Do some exploring for the not-so-obvious toilets and places where you can buy food and drinks. Every time a match finishes on the center court, thousands of people will run to the nearest toilets and nearest food stands. The Grand Slam tournaments are VERY crowded. Try to avoid the main “rush hours” and leave the center court before the match ends.

Crowds at Roland Garros 2009

5. If you want to buy some souvenirs, shirts, and other tennis stuff, you'll find plenty of shops around the main tournament area. Keep in mind that some of the most-wanted items may be sold out in the first week.

This Grand Slam tennis tournament guide will be updated with more specifics about each tournament I attended. (I've recently added the US Open tennis tournament guide

I also invite you to share, using the form below, your best tips on attending a Grand Slam or any tennis tournament.

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