“For the love of tennis”, the ASB Classic’s advertising tagline beautifully encapsulates why people, many who have little interest in tennis throughout the rest of the year, join the crowd at the ASB Classic and Heineken Open tournaments held in Auckland during January. After all, New Zealand is on holiday, so why not!
Having experienced tennis tournaments: from a corporate box to the concrete steps of the Yock Stand at Stanley Street (it’s a long day for those who forget to bring a cushion); to three of the Grand Slams many times (yet to make it to US Open), I love the intimacy and atmosphere of the tennis in Auckland – there’s nowhere else in the world where you sit so close to the action. With Arthur Ashe’s centre court capacity a little over 23K, and Wimbledon, Rod Laver Arena and Roland Garros all holding 15K people, centre court at the ASB Tennis Centre swells to 3200 with all that extra seating, so it’s a very intimate affair.
The crowd’s very relaxed and all sorts of people go along. Some are simply there to soak up the atmosphere, have a few cold beverages, catch some sun and brag to others when back at work. For many, including young kids, it’s their first experience of live tennis. And then there are the diehard tennis fans that have been going for years. Of course there’s always a few with absolutely no clue whatsoever about tennis crowd etiquette, gently chided by the team of volunteers for getting out of their seats at the wrong time – crowd watching can be lots of fun too.
It must be tough on the players being so close too - it’s no wonder they don’t smile much during a match. Trying to concentrate with the crowd's noisy cheering, chanting and clapping, they would be so aware of the gasps, murmurs, and even the odd coaching tips - sometimes mid-rally, coming from the crowd.
New Zealand’s ability to attract top-ranked players is incredible, with the hard work behind the scenes paying off, providing a fantastic summer spectacle. With 8 days left of fantastic international tennis in Auckland; ASB Classic finals are Saturday and the Heineken Open men’s tournament starting Monday 12 January, don’t miss the opportunity to see international tennis stars up close and personal. And while some sessions are already sold out, it’s not too late to grab some tickets,