It probably seemed to the hard-working people at Tennis Australia that this moment might not come.
But on Wednesday at noon in Australia, the tickets for the 2021 Australian pen finally went on sale.
But, with the strict protocols mandated by the Victorian government, the site is going to have a unique look.
At this point – subject to an increase – tickets will be sold at just 25 per cent of capacity. That’s a lot better than zero per cent. But given how well this tournament sells in an ordinary year, those ducats are going to be precious.
The queue was daunting, just a minute into the tickets being available for sale. But it went quickly – inside five minutes, you were in.
By 12:06 p.m. Wednesday, Melbourne time, the men’s final – with tickets up to a brain-freezing … $990 apiece … were sold out.
But there was a waiting list available.
The lower-tier tickets for the women’s final (up to $715 apiece) also were gone.
Buying those precious finals tickets on spec, in order to put them up on Ticketmaster for resale closer to the final, is not an option this year.
So if you bought tickets, you’re going to have to use them.
MCA the diehard fans’ choice
And with that, assuming the lucky fans want to max out their tennis, it appears tickets for Margaret Court Arena is the way to go.
Perhaps there will be no Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams or world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty – or even Roger Federer? – on MCA. But if fans want to have a full day (and evening) of tennis, it’s the best value.
Melbourne Park tickets divided into three sections
The first thing to note is that “Melbourne Arena” is now called “John Cain Arena”, after being Hisense Arena, and Vodaphone Arena when it first opened in 2000.
It was announced back in February, and made official Dec. 1.
Each of the three arenas (Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena) will have separate tickets. And with those tickets, you will only be able to access a specific part of the site.
The John Cain Arena section will include Courts 16 and 17, in the back area of the site. It’s unclear whether the other courts out there (up to No. 23) will also be accessible. The practice courts at the back of the site will also be part of this section.
Rod Laver Arena will, as usual, have the priciest tickets. But that ticket, whether for a day session or night session, will pretty much only give you access to … Rod Laver Arena.
The best bet is the third section, which includes Margaret Court Arena. Along with that, you get Show Court 3, and 1573 Arena (the old Show Court 2). And, on top of that, all the field courts from No. 5 to No. 15.
Ticket holders also can hang at Garden Square, which is the big area in front of Rod Laver Arena where everyone gathers to watch on the big screen.
That’s a slam dunk.
The Grand Slam Oval, an increasingly popular (and fun) area where there are bars, restaurants, live music and a lot of other activities, will be divided between the Rod Laver Arena section and the John Cain Arena section.
Fan pods with your pals
The ticket rules do not restrict buyers to being able to sit in groups with only family members. The pods, which will be separated from each other and will be of various sizes, can be as many as six fans sitting together. But they all have to be bought together.
If it wasn’t already obvious, there will be no grounds passes for sale at the moment. But buying Margaret Court Arena tickets is almost as good.
Tennis Australia, which currently is dealing with a 25 per cent capacity guideline, says that grounds passes might go on sale closer to the start date as they “continue to work with the Victorian Government on crowd sizes and physical distancing protocols.” But those would still be subject to the applicable zoning requirements.
“John Cain” tickets no longer grounds-pass friendly
The tickets at the second-largest arena on the Melbourne Park site were a bit of a tougher sell a few years ago. It’s a long walk from the rest of the site, and there’s not much atmosphere in there.
But the arrival of Margaret Court Arena meant that while there were still tickets available for sale out there, most of the seating was first-come, first serve. Fans with Rod Laver, MCA or grounds passes would line up, especially for matches involving Aussies like Nick Kyrgios.
That’s not the case this year; the MCA ticket acts like more of a grounds pass.
Tennis Australia said the tickets for John Cain Arena this year are $49 during the week and $59 on weekends – the same price as a grounds pass back in January.
Rod Laver Arena ticket prices remain the same as back in January. That means they start at $62 AUD. But of course, they go all the way up to some $800 AUD for the men’s singles final.
The MCA tickets are cheaper than the 2020 edition: $56 for the cheapest day session tix (with access to all those outside courts), and $60 for the night session.
International travellers taking a chance
Flights to Australia are expected to open up in January – at least somewhat.
So if you’re coming from outside the country and want to buy tickets, there’s certainly a chance you can get there – especially if money is no object. And, obviously, you’d have to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel room upon arrival. So you’d have to REALLY love tennis to do that.
The ticket restrictions indicate that fans travelling from other Australian states who end up being unable to come to Melbourne because of travel restrictions can get a refund or credit.
As well, if a ticket holder contracts COVID-19 or has symptoms, or is a close contact of someone who does and is required to isolate, they can get a refund, upon presentation of some type of medical evidence.
It appears that the Kids’ Zone, which is terrific and under normal circumstances is a place where people can leave their kids for awhile and go watch tennis in peace, isn’t going to be logistically possible in 2021.