My Australian Open Experience

For Americans and many people in the Western Hemisphere, the Australian Open has always been that tennis tournament that was on in the middle of night every January. It was sometimes on when you woke up in the morning and you’re looking for Sportscenter on ESPN. However, the Australian Open is the best grand slam tennis tournament in the world and I can say that now because I have now been to all four of them. My Australian Open experience was tremendous!
Australian Open logo, Melbourne, Australia
My trip with Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria to the amazing city of Melbourne was predicated on attending the Australian Open. It was to complete my “career grand slam”. This means I have now attended the US Open in New York, Wimbledon in London, Roland Garros in Paris and now the Australian Open in Melbourne. It was quite a thrill and my Australian Open experience was second to none.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Roger Federer
On the Friday of the second week I had accredited tickets to the Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal men’s semi-final. This means that I saw perhaps the two greatest players of all-time playing against each other in a major for the first time. It was like a dream for me.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Rafael Nadal
With my accredited ticket I was allowed access under Rod Laver Arena and into the player and media areas. This meant that I had access to the hallways, the practice courts, the broadcast center, the cafeteria and virtually anywhere I wanted to go outside of the locker rooms.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, broadcast center
It was a pretty amazing and surreal experience as I actually met and saw several super famous tennis people. I met or saw up close; Pete Sampras; Jim Courier, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Stefan Edberg; Darren Cahill, Brad Gilbert and several others. It was all very surreal for a tennis nut like me.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, broadcast center
My Australian Open experience also taught me what an extremely massive undertaking it is to put on a world-class tournament that is broadcast live to over 200 countries. They literally have to build a small city to do it and the Australians handle it very well. They have the best facilities of any grand slam tournament and most of the players will say it’s their favorite tournament.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Lee Abbamonte, social shack
I was also interviewed at the Social Shack; which is a new addition to the Australian Open and one that will undoubtedly be copied at other grand slams because it was fantastic as it interacted with fans over social media in real time. The Australian Open is revolutionary in how they use the hash tag #AusOpen and this became the focal point for pictures for pretty much everyone at the Australia Open. Brilliant branding and ownership of the social space!
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Social Shack, #AusOpen
I hope to have the audio version soon but I got to speak for about 10 minutes about travels and tennis so it was quite a dream for me! I can also say that I 100% correctly predicted the winner on air!
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Federer
As for the matches I saw; Federer vs. Nadal was the highlight for me of course-even though it was a semi-final. Nadal won in straight sets and I could go on forever how Federer cost himself crucial points and beat himself in many ways. However, Nadal was the superior player and deserved to beat Federer and advance to the men’s final.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Federer, Nadal
On Saturday night I saw the women’s championship match between Li Na, the popular Chinese player and former French Open Champion in her third Australian Open final. She played Dominika Cibulkova from Slovakia who was a relative unknown until the other day.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Dominika Cibulkova
Cibulkova played brilliantly in the first set and really had a chance to win the opening set but Li Na’s experience came through and eventually Cibulkova went down in straight sets. However, her style of play and energy earned her a lot of fans and she really seemed to embrace the spotlight and shine in it. She has a new fan in me and I hope she can continue to flourish in 2014.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Li Na
Li Na gave perhaps the greatest or at least funniest acceptance speech after her victory. She has always been known to be funny but she really outdid herself on Saturday night. She is a crowd favorite in Melbourne and is tough not to like. Not to mention she carries the burden of being a Chinese athlete who has a real vibrant personality. She is a real crossover star and I hope she keeps it going for a few more years; even though she is 31.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Dominika Cibulkova, Li Na
Finally, the men’s final featured Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland vs. the great Rafael Nadal of Spain. Nadal was a huge favorite coming in but Wawrinka had other ideas. After disposing of three time defending champion Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych, Wawrinka took it to Nadal and beat him soundly.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal
The match was really weird because toward the end of the second set, Nadal appeared to be injured. Many people, including me thought Nadal was faking it in order to try to turn the momentum of the match around. He has a tendency to do that type of thing when he is down or senses he is losing. Many players have complained about that over the years.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal
I am not saying he was faking it at all, I am just saying that Stan was killing him and then Nadal all of a sudden developed back spasms in the final he is getting killed in after breezing through the rest of the tournament. I don’t know.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal
Either way, Stan came through and won in four sets and became the only player from Switzerland besides Roger Federer to win a major title. Good for Stan and congratulations! He is now the world #3.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, trophy
So all in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better Australian Open experience and saw some amazing tennis and got a better feeling about how the tournament is actually staged.
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal
This Australian Open final was on the heels of attending the US Open final in September. So while I have now attended all four majors, I have now attended two finals so I need the French and Wimbledon finals to complete that grand slam. Stay tuned!
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Lee Abbamonte
Disclaimer: I was given complimentary tickets to the Australian Open and have been fully hosted by Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria during my stay in Melbourne. I am receiving financial compensation for being down in Australia. All opinions, pictures and writings are mine and mine alone and have not been influenced in any way, shape or form as always.

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  1. Glad you enjoyed the Open mate. Love following your photos on Facebook. Enjoy your time here in Australia and if you get up to Brisbane give me a ring.

  2. Amazing photos of the tennis Lee. Thanks for the kind words for our little tournament.

  3. You got to see some great matches. Fed/Rafa is a classic anytime they play!

  4. So jealous of Federer v Nadal. That must’ve been amazing to see live. I wish it could’ve gone 5 sets though.

  5. Glad you enjoyed your time here. It’s a great time to be in Oz, and in particular Melbourne. Us Aussies love our grand slam. It’s the only one that’s NOT on during the middle of the night!

  6. I am just sad that I have nothing to watch on TV now! You get so used to and into the tournament when it’s on. The bam…all done!

  7. It was nice to see a new person in the final and actually win one. I am so tired of the same people winning every time on the mens side. The women may not be as good but anyone can win any tournament.

  8. It was like he used soccer magic spray in the 3rd set 😉

  9. Lee, I cannot accept that Rafa would fake an injury. He is too great a player and could have cost himself a chance to win another grand slam. He certainly did rattle Stanislas though for a bit but congrats to him on winning.

    • Fareed, not saying he faked it but it did look very fishy considering the situation and how well Stan was playing and let’s face it…Nadal has a history of delaying tactics

  10. Congrats on the career Grand Slam! I completed mine attending Wimbledon in 2010, complete with front row seats for the epic Isner-Mahut match. Haven’t been to the Aussie since 2005 but that’s still one of my favorites. Have only been to the finals at the US Open though, so I guess I need to get back to the others for finals someday!

  11. Awesome experience Lee!

  12. I thought Nadal was faking injury as well. You hit the nail on the head, he always seems to come up with an ailment if he is losing. I don’t like him.

  13. I really think you don’t know Nadal at all which is evident on your comments. The man is the most humble person in sport, never says a bad word about another player and will never even give an injury credit over an opponent. Name me one other match he so-called ‘faked’ an injury. All due respect to Stan and I like him, but he will never be in the same class as the legends of the game and good luck to him for winning because he will never get close again, unless of course someone else conveniently fakes an injury. Disappointing that you felt the need to add such unnecessary comments to what was otherwise not a bad blog but it’s clear your dislike of Nadal wrote this article.

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