12 September 2011

Grand Slam rankings

Having attended tennis' four Grand Slams this year, thought it would be fun to share my own ranking system for the slams. Feel free to argue with me but here are my opinions based on five factors: location, food, ticketing, prices and crowd.

Venue location
Being easy to access to me is a hugely important part of slam attendance and far and away the Aussie Open is the most convenient to get to. Yes Melbourne is the smallest host city of the four but Melbourne Park is in such a great location. From the main heart of the city, it's only a 10-15 minute walk and there are free trams from Flinders Station. Even when I stayed just outside the city, it was still a pretty short journey to the tennis. With the other three, yes they are big cities and you can choose to stay as close as you can, but I factor in how close the venue is to public transport as well. Even if you stay in Manhattan, Flushing Meadows is only 1/2 hour by subway and when you get off it's a lovely walk over a bridge and you're at the gate. Compare that with the French and Wimbledon, both which require a 10-15 minute walk from the closest subway stations.

1) Aussie Open
2) US Open
3) Wimbledon
4) French Open

Ticketing process
Being able to get slam tickets without pulling my hair out is pretty important, both before and during the tournament. There are always a few ways to make life easier: Aussie Open membership, the Wimbledon  ballot system, being a USTA member, etc. But for anyone who perhaps makes a later decision to attend a slam (after the ballot closes or public sales have already started) I think it's great if you still have an option that's relatively affordable. I also think having flexibility while a tournament is on is great - as tennis goes you never know which player plays on which day and which session so if you go a long way to see your faves it's great if you have a chance to get a ticket to see him/her.

Again, I tout the Aussie Open for its great processes. I've had years in which I bought tickets the second they went on sale to the public, and this year I did the membership which gave me early ins for buying a package. For both, I had amazing seats - second row at the net even during the 2008 women's semifinals when I bought them during public sales. However, when French Open tix went on sale to the public this year I went online and was #6400 in the queue. I'm not kidding. I waited and waited, and by the time I got in the only tickets left were the really crazy expensive ones. Wimbledon - well I didn't think I was going so I didn't go into the ballot. Therefore, my only options were to try online and queue.

The French and US Open both have official reselling websites which are great but the fees can be as expensive as the tickets. Still, it's great that you have a chance to buy tickets when the tourneys are already in progress. Wimbledon - ugh don't even start me on the queue. Yep, been around a long time, but for people from overseas it's a really unfriendly way to spend a night (or nights) and I felt physically ill from getting up at 3am to sit/stand in the cold, rainy open space for 7 hours before a day of tennis watching. Supposedly some tickets are released online the night before for the showcourts, but I tried again and again and got nada.

1) Aussie Open
2) US Open
3) French Open
4) Wimbledon

Food
All slams allow you to bring food in, and at Wimbledon you can even bring in a bit of alcohol! The US Open says you can only bring in limited quantities of food but I had no trouble bringing any amount of food into each slam. In terms of variety, cost, value and taste I thought the food at Wimbledon was the best (though I had the worst coffee I've ever had in my life there too!). Sandwiches were good, good fish and chips and the pizzas looked/smelled decent. The prices and sizes were very good as well.

I think Aussie Open is next best - great sushi options, Asian dishes, salads, etc. I also though the French was okay - the morning donuts and coffee were a great start to each day (tho so unhealthy) and the baguettes suited me fine. The US Open food tho - ugh. Bland sandwiches, tasteless hot dogs and nachos that sounded like a good idea but looked disgusting. And yep, very pricey.

1) Wimbledon
2) Aussie Open
3) French Open
4) US Open

Prices
This is a harder one to evaluate as I think spending money on tennis tickets is always worth it (and why I will never be a rich person) and I try to keep food/drink prices down at the event.
In terms of value for money, the Aussie Open grounds passes are the best and US Open most expensive (better off to buy an Arthur Ashe ticket). I actually thought Wimbledon prices were pretty fair - for tickets and food (but start saving now if you want to drink a Pimms!) You can buy reasonably priced seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, but you'd be better off watching in a sports bar as the upper seats are just too far from the court. If you want to buy any closer seats you'll need a mortgage!


1) Wimbledon
2) Aussie Open
3) French Open
4) US Open

Crowd
I'll rate the slams for two areas related to the crowd: the actual people in the crowd as well as how crowded the slams are. The French Open to me was the worst by far - the venue is far too small to accommodate so many people and it was very difficult to get into the outer courts. There's really only one main avenue to get people from one area to another and it gets beyond packed and was unsettling to get around at times. There were not enough public spaces so it was a mission to get anywhere - there's just one main big screen area with limited seats, and only one other area with tables for people to sit and eat. The crowd themselves - well I wasn't impressed. People near me in Suzanne Lenglen were smoking in the stands and ashing on the steps (classy) and I don't have anything positive to say about the crowd and their treatment of non-French players. It was no better in person than what I'd seen on TV.

I feel like the shape of Melbourne Park makes it feel like the biggest and therefore less crowded - it can take 10-15 minutes to walk from the far courts by Rod Laver Arena all the way to the back courts near Hisense Arena so there are a lot of spaces to fit everyone in. I find the Aussie Open staff and crowd superbly friendly - the Aussies are such great sports fans and even when I go alone I find people are easy to talk to and kind.


1) Australian Open
2) US Open
3) Wimbledon
4) French Open

So my overall rankings:
1) Australian Open
2) Wimbledon
3) US Open
4) French Open
So, there are my opinions - any big disagreements? Are there other factors you think are important to consider?

3 comments:

  1. I loved reading all the differences. Like we talked about on Tuesday I've only been to the US Open and on the grounds of Wimbledon. I've thought for a while, and your lists confirmed it for me, that the Aussie Open is the Grand Slam I'd most like to get to. I better start saving!

    I do disagree about the US Open food, I think there's some bad stadium food, but much of the food in the food village is pretty good (I love the burrito and pasta and meatballs) and well-priced for NYC.

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  2. My top Slams are the Oz and US Opens. Hard to say which is better. I like both! The atmosphere is great, very fan-friendly - lots to see and do, great ticketing system, and public transport is great.

    I walked back to Melbourne CBD past 2am after a long Safin match (which he should've wrapped up in straight sets) and it was very safe. The subway at NY is extended to cater for the past midnight matches.

    Wimbledon was the first Slam I went to and I love the green courts. But the queue system is just a pain. I was a student in London then, so it wasn't much of a hassle to waste time queuing, but I'm thinking of going this year, and as a tourist, there's other things I want to do with that time spent queuing! Here's hoping for a miracle with my ballot application...

    I finally made it to the French Open last year to finally complete my own Slam and I think I left my heart there at Philippe Chatrier during the Isner-Rafa 1st round match. That was the most tense 1st round match I've ever seen. Rafa, never again, por favor!! No es bueno para mi corazon!! :p

    I agree with you - Roland Garros' ticketing process is a nightmare! I went online the first day of public sales, but decided to wait till night after I finish work (Malaysian time), and I was literally having a panic attack as I only managed to get one one Suzanne Lenglen ticket!! Luckily my friend went online 5 hours earlier and got us Chatrier tix - just for 1 day tho. I just found it weird, as US and Oz Open tickets were so easy to buy.Luckily for me, Rafa played on the day I had Chatrier ticket.

    I went to the resale ticket website, but there's no Chatrier tix at all! And lo and behold, outside the gates, so many touts were selling tix! So this is where all the tix went to!!!! I spoke to a Canadian next to me and he bought Chatrier tix at 3x more from the Concierge of his hotel. Sigh...

    The French Open is indeed too small a venue. Am glad to hear they are extending the stadium - it was so difficult to get into the Outer Courts! The ushers did not even bother guiding fans to the empty seats, so ppl just stand and crowd the entrance, yet I see so many empty seats and most with ppl's bags on it! One thing I noticed about the FO ushers (both men and women) - they are VERY well dressed! Loved their white pinafore with hints of red clay. They even had matching sweaters/cardigans.

    To me, food is not a major concern - ticketing has got to be the number 1 factor. And obviously the Oz and US wins hands down. Heck, I managed to buy a final ticket for the US Open 2005 (my fave Agassi made it to finals - who'd have thought!) on the day of the final itself - pretty neat. Of course, I was up at the clouds, but it was worth it.

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  3. Hi Niwanda - sorry for the late response have been busy with back to back to back tourneys!

    Always enjoy hearing others' perspective on the slams. How luck were you to be at Rafa/Isner! I tried forever to get Chatrier tix when I was there on viagogo website but had no luck. We are spoiled that ticketing for Aussie and US Open in particular are so straightforward!

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