DJ sets and ‘noisy’ fans: the Australian Open’s new ‘party court’ is redefining how to watch tennis

The sound of glasses clinking, friends laughing and the metronomic thud of bass isn’t exactly what you’d expect to hear during a grand slam tournament.

But this year, the Australian Open is mixing things up by bringing the party to the tennis season’s first grand slam

The Courtside Bar is a newly built, two-story entertainment venue which looks over Court 6 at Melbourne Park, allowing 400 customers to wine and dine while they watch the action unfold at close quarters.

Against the backdrop of umpire calls and the thud of the ball on rackets, fans can also enjoy the melodic sounds of “a rotating roster of DJs” as they watch the world’s best tennis players compete.

While organizers say the venue is raising the bar for audiences attending the grand slam, many players aren’t convinced as to the logic of having boisterous fans so close to the action.

“It’s a very weird concept, in my opinion,” Petros Tsitsipas told reporters after playing on the court in a doubles match with his brother Stefanos during the opening week.

“It was a bit noisy, so it’s not so easy to concentrate.”

While Petros acknowledged that the smaller outdoor courts are always more noisy during grand slam events, his brother Stefanos says the increased activity so close to the court could make it harder for players to perform at their highest level.

Fans can order food and drinks while they watch the action unfold on Court 6. - Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP
Fans can order food and drinks while they watch the action unfold on Court 6. - Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP

While conceding that the new initiative could be one that helps modernize the game, the beaten finalist at last year’s tournament said he would like more studies carried out as to whether the increased noise could impact concentration.

“You don’t know until you’re a tennis player, when you’re trying to zone in, it’s difficult when you see movement and when you see stuff happening around you,” Stefanos told reporters, adding he was aware of the music emanating from the bar at a “subconscious” level.

“There is a tiny little yellow ball flying around, and it requires your concentration, sometimes over 100%.

“If that [noise] can affect you at 5%, we’re in trouble. So I don’t know what the science behind it is […] I’m not a huge fan of it.”

‘Very noisy, very loud’

Spain’s Paula Badosa also said she felt uncomfortable playing near the unsettled atmosphere, despite winning both her first and second round matches on the court.

“It’s very noisy, very loud. It’s a little bit tough to concentrate there,” she told reporters.

“I don’t know if it’s going to work in the future.”

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who lost to Badosa in the second round, told UK outlet that patrons of the bar had even “meowed” at her as they enjoyed one too many drinks courtside.

If players remain unsure of the concept, it seems some fans also need convincing.

James Ewing lives in Melbourne and regularly attends the season’s first grand slam. On Saturday, the 29-year-old watched a game on Court 6, sitting opposite the infamous Courtside Bar for the first time.

Ewing told CNN Sport that the atmosphere was markedly different to other courts at Melbourne Park, where he said he was told to be quiet after speaking to his girlfriend between points.

“I think everyone could agree that it seems a bit odd,” he said to CNN, speaking about the new bar.

“You can hear from the noise that it just isn’t what you’d expect from a tournament like that.”

Tennis fan James Ewing and his girlfriend Yuri said Court 6 was very different to other venues at Melbourne Park. - James Ewing
Tennis fan James Ewing and his girlfriend Yuri said Court 6 was very different to other venues at Melbourne Park. - James Ewing

CNN has reached out to tournament organizers for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Not everyone hates it

When launching the idea in October 2023, Tennis Australia’s Chief Commercial Officer Cedric Cornelis said in a statement that “presenting new and exciting ways for fans to enjoy the [Australian Open], and creating memorable moments is a signature of our event.”

He added: “It’s a big part of our point of difference and we can’t wait to deliver more terrific experiences in 2024.”

The new bar is not without its supporters, though, with Judy Murray, a tennis coach and mother of three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray, among those welcoming the change.

“One of the many additions to enhance the player and fan experience at Melbourne Park” she wrote on X, formerly known at Twitter.

“It gets better every year. The Party Court at the Australian Open […] is a nod to sport and entertainment becoming ever more important to attracting new audiences to events.”

Love it or loathe it, it seems concepts like Melbourne’s Courtside Bar could become more commonplace at events, with organizers eager to attract new audiences to the game of tennis.

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