Travelling for Tennis? Here’s all you need to know

There are many Tennis fans whose dream vacay isn’t to some exotic locale, but to one of the Big Four Grand Slams. Instead of slouching on the couch watching your favourite players on TV, get right where the action is.

In the years preceding COVID-19, there was an exponential growth in sports tourism. Fans, no longer satisfied to watch their favourite athlete or team on their television screens, were heading in droves to experience the biggest sports events where it’s best enjoyed — at the actual venue itself.

Crowd at the rod laver arena during the australian open in melbourne. Image: shutterstock/neale cousland. | tennis, sports, tennis travel, grand slams
Crowd at the Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open in Melbourne. Image: Shutterstock/Neale Cousland.

Cricket, Football, Formula 1, and Tennis are among the most popular sports that fans want to catch live. A travel agent can get the casual fan a great deal and assured tickets for any marquee event such as the Cricket World Cup or Wimbledon, but if you are a hardcore sports fanatic, it’s best to get some tips from someone who has been there on how to best enjoy the event.

Being a major Tennis fan, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a few Tennis tournaments outside India and here are some of my personal tips I’d like to share with fellow Tennis lovers.

Pick the tournament you want to visit

Which tournament? Choose wisely! Image: shutterstock/avocadost. | tennis, sports, tennis travel, grand slams
Which tournament? Choose wisely! Image: Shutterstock/AvocadoSt.

Like any sport, the Tennis circuit consists of a hierarchy of events. There’s the four Grand Slams — the Australian Open, Roland Garros (Paris, France), Wimbledon (United Kingdom), and the US Open — right at the top. They are followed by the ATP (men) Masters Series and WTA (women) 1000 Series events, followed by ATP/WTA 500 and then the ATP/ WTA 250 events. Depending on which country you are based in and your budget, picking one of them is the perfect starting point.

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Book your tickets before you head there

Once you’ve decided which Tennis event you want to go for, book the tickets for the days you want to watch the matches. The official websites of the tournaments have a link for tickets and information on official ticketing partners. Unless you decide to go for Wimbledon, in which case you will need to buy one of their official hospitality packages or queue up outside the Wimbledon grounds and camp overnight!

Ensure you read the terms & conditions on the tickets and the platforms before buying them. Several events, especially the Grand Slams, have restrictions on reselling tickets on unofficial platforms. For the last-minute guys, there’s usually a Box-office booth where you can find limited tickets on the same day.

Stay close to the venue

If you are booking a hotel or Airbnb for your visit, you are likely to be better off staying as close to the venue as your budget permits. You might find a cheaper deal away from the venue but remember to account for travel costs to and from the stadium. Also, given that most Tennis events have an evening session, which has a completely different vibe and buzz as compared to the day sessions, you might be forced to take a cab, which can get pretty expensive late at night after the last matches are over.

Go early on the day to the venue

One of the things I most enjoy doing at a tournament is to stroll around the grounds at a leisurely pace without an agenda. Most tournaments will have a section where you can shop for Tennis gear and souvenirs for your friends. I find this a great way to spend time when the matches are not on. Also, if you are at the venue early, you can watch the player’s practice sessions. The top events usually publish the practice schedule of players as well to help fans watch their idols.

Go for the first few days rather than the last few ones

While most people tend to go for the finals weekend of an event, if you are a die-hard Tennis fan, I’d recommend going for the first few days for sure, and then extend it to the weekend if you can. If you’re around for the first few days, you are likely to see all the top players in action. There’s no guarantee that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, or any of your other favourites will make it to the finals weekend.

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Also, with exciting matches on several courts happening simultaneously on the first few days, you are spoilt for choice and can go court-hopping, something you have to experience to know what it’s like.

Go with some company or find some once there

The times I have attended Tennis tournaments turned out to be solo trips because it was difficult to find a common schedule with my other Tennis-mad friends. While they turned out to be fabulous experiences that I’d never change, I did often find myself wishing I had someone to share the excitement of a breath-taking shot or the inane chatter that my Tennis mind keeps churning out.

Tennis, sports, tennis travel, grand slams
Make friends with other Tennis buffs. Image: Shutterstock/Leonard Zhukovsky.

If you do end up going alone, try to make some acquaintances or friends while you are at the event. Most people around are, in all probability, Tennis fans too so it should be easy to connect on common likes or dislikes. My first time was at the US Open, when I was much younger and I didn’t talk to too many others around me. On my more recent trip to the Dubai Tennis Championships, I talked to a few people around and watching the matches with them was more enjoyable.

Look around the grounds to spot players and celebrities

When you are on the grounds, keep your eyes open to spot Tennis players and/or other celebrities. Players usually stay very close to the hotel and are often on the grounds even when they are not playing. The practice courts are a great place to catch some of them in a relaxed mood.

In most cities, Tennis tournaments are more than just about Tennis. They are a social event so don’t be surprised to catch some celebrities in the stands and around the grounds.

Ask for selfies/autographs

When you see a player, don’t hesitate to ask for an autograph or a selfie. I’ve found that most players are happy to oblige fan requests, some even after they have lost a match. A selfie or an autograph is a great way to make your Tennis friends go green with envy, and a prized collection for your later years to tell the grandkids.

Tennis, sports, tennis travel, grand slams
Don’t be shy to approach a player you admire. Image: Shutterstock/Sasha Samardzija.

Go ahead, plan that Tennis trip and enjoy it to the max. And yes, don’t forget to also carry your own Tennis gear and look for players at your level to hit with if you play the sport yourself!

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