Grand Slam Summer

Summer in Australia.  Beaches. Barbecue. Tennis.  Perfect.  It doesn’t get any better than this. Every year the best of the best in professional tennis converge on Australia to compete in the Grand Slam series – the Australian Open in Melbourne. 

Sightseeing at the Opera House
Sightseeing at the Opera House

However, before that, there are a series of other tournaments held all over Australia – including Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.  For the last two years I had attended the Grand Slam in Melbourne.  This year I decided to experience the atmosphere of another city, so I chose Sydney and the APIA International.  Not only did I get to see great tennis, I also caught up with family and friends.

Welcome to the APIA International
Welcome to the APIA International

I had been to Sydney a couple of times before so I knew how to get around the city.  Sydney is one of those great unplanned cities and may seem complicated, but with a little pre-planning and an Opal card I was soon travelling like a local.  The Opal card is the travel card of choice used on the public transport network.  These can be either purchased online or at a retail outlet around Sydney.  However, you can still buy the paper tickets if you are not going to travel frequently.

Me inside arenaAccommodation in Sydney is not cheap, but there are affordable places to stay when you book and pay in advance and if you don’t mind it being basic.  When I travel I only want accommodation to sleep in as I tend to be out and about more than I am in the hotel.  So a five star hotel with luxury facilities is not needed. Budget, basic and secure are the factors I take into consideration when searching for a hotel. Because I was in Sydney for the tennis I chose a conveniently located place near Central Station.  The Great Southern Hotel on George Street is literally 5 minutes walk (8 minutes if you ask Google) up the road when you arrive from the airport by train.  Central and close to all amenities, it is affordable and comfortable. It is also only a few minutes walk to Paddy’s Markets, Chinatown, Cockle Bay Wharf and Darling Harbor.  You are literally in the heart of everything!

The APIA Prize
The APIA Prize

Travelling to Sydney Olympic Park by train is the easiest way to get to and from the APIA International. The vibe from the park builds as you disembark the train and walk towards the stadium.  For those who have never been to the Tennis Centre before, it is a gentle 15 minute walk up Olympic Boulevard.  Pass by the hockey and aquatic centres and you are headed straight for Ken Rosewall Arena.

Once inside the grounds, the best thing about these tournaments is the energy from the people. All around you people are buzzing excitedly about the finals matches that are about to commence. To be a part of that makes the experience more enriching.  The support the crowd gave the players is amazing even though no Australians were in either the men or women finals this year.  During the break in matches, it is a perfect opportunity to tour the grounds and soak up the atmosphere and just people watch.  This is something I try to make time for in all cities I visit as it is the best way to experience the real vibe and culture of a city.

The tickets I had for the final two days located me on level 1 down the front.  So pretty close to the action! Although there is restricted viewing, the only real restriction was the umpire chair but then again only a small section of the court was hidden and I did get to see the players faces during the match.

As you can see from the photo on the left, this was a pretty great location to view the men and womens finals.

If only I could get seats like this when I was in Melbourne last year!

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