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Best AO matches you could have watched with a ground pass

  • Dan Imhoff & Matt Trollope

The saying goes that an Australian Open ground pass is one of the best-value tickets in sport.

And that remains the case in 2024, especially with Early Bird Ground Passes starting at just $19 – an offer ending on 30 November.

TICKETS: Secure your spot at AO 2024

AO HACKS: Maximise your AO ground pass

A ground pass won’t get you inside Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court Arena, but it can take you everywhere else – including some of Melbourne Park’s other phenomenal stadiums.

These have been the stage on which some of the great AO battles have played out, often significantly impacting that year’s event while unearthing exciting new stars.

We revisit five unforgettable matches you could have watched with a ground pass – and you might see a sixth by securing your ground pass for AO 2024.

Nick Kyrgios d Karen Khachanov – AO 2020 3R 

‘The People’s Court’ was spilling over with fans desperate to strap in for another wild Nick Kyrgios rollercoaster ride on his favourite stadium at Melbourne Park nearly four years ago.

It was third-round action against 16th seed Karen Khachanov, and in trademark scenes the home crowd was treated to a contest for the ages, which took several complicated twists and turns over four hours and 26 minutes.

Kyrgios let slip a two-set lead, then overcame concentration lapses, a left buttock injury, a bloodied hand from a dive, a match point, and a resurgent Khachanov for what he dubbed one of his greatest wins.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Kyrgios said following his 6-2 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 6-7(7) 7-6[10-8] triumph, which booked a fourth-round date with Rafael Nadal.

“It was insane.”

Jelena Jankovic d Tamira Paszek – AO 2008 1R 

Twelve years earlier on the same court, Serbian star Jelena Jankovic was given the fright of her life in the first round.

It was Day 1 of Australian Open 2008, in the first match of the day at then-Hisense Arena. It was also the first year of the tournament’s new blue courts. And Tamira Paszek had come to play.

The Austrian was a sweet ball-striker – she later reached Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2011 and 2012 – and she controlled the match, comfortably winning the first set then storming to a 4-1 lead in the third.

The No.3 seed looked destined for the earliest of exits when Paszek served for the match and arrived at match point.

Yet Jankovic remained alive after winning the wildest of 28-stroke rallies to save it.

She stared down more match points and eventually won by the staggering scoreline of 2-6 6-2 12-10.

Jankovic went on to reach that year’s semifinals after upstaging defending champion Serena Williams in the quarters.

Alex de Minaur d Gerald Melzer – AO 2017 1R

When Alex de Minaur sealed a five-set win over Gerald Melzer to win his first ever Australian Open match, the noise cascading across Garden Square was immense.

The Australian, then just 17 years old, was making his Grand Slam main-draw debut as a wildcard. He was ranked world No.301.

He trailed Melzer by two-sets-to-one, by 5-2 in the fourth, and faced a match point. But playing with outstanding passion, energy and resolve, and buoyed by an electric crowd, he lifted.

De Minaur forced a tiebreak, won it, then dominated the fifth to complete an outstanding 5-7 6-3 2-6 7-6(2) 6-1 triumph, one which mentor Lleyton Hewitt observed from the stands.

“Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now. Definitely the happiest moment of my life,” De Minaur said.

“I never felt such an unbelievable experience with a crowd. They were loud the whole match. I'm pretty sure they got me through.”

Angelique Kerber d Misaki Doi – AO 2016 1R
1573 ARENA

In the last match on Day 2 of Australian Open 2016, Angelique Kerber’s impressive Aussie summer looked set to end abruptly.

The Brisbane finalist had won five of her six matches leading into the event, but trailed fellow lefty Misaki Doi by a set and was embroiled in a second-set tiebreak.

After one hour, 50 minutes of impressive tennis, Doi played an aggressive point and put away a smash to reach match point. The crowd, containing many Japanese fans, grew louder in anticipation of a big upset.

Yet Doi committed three straight errors. Kerber won the second-set tiebreak, and the match. And she went on to win the entire tournament – her first Grand Slam singles title.

“When I played here in the first round I was match point down, so I was actually with one leg in the plane to Germany,” Kerber laughed, after stunning Serena Williams in a three-set final.

“And now I’m here!”

Koolhof/Skupski d Tsitsipas/Tsitsipas – AO 2023 R2

In its short history – it debuted as a new show court in 2022 – KIA Arena has been a terrific addition to the tournament.

As well as hosting great singles matches, it has become notable for thrilling doubles encounters – several which involved Aussies Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis as they went all the way to the AO 2022 men’s doubles title.

Doubles sparkled again in 2023, when crowds packed into the sunken court to watch Tsitsipas brothers Stefanos and Petros take on No.1 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Ken Skupski.

Buoyed by the huge Greek community that calls Melbourne home, Team Tsitsipas very nearly pulled off the upset of the tandem event when they surged to an early lead in the final-set tiebreak.

Koolhof and Skupski eventually escaped 7-6(6) 4-6 7-6[10-7], but it took them almost three hours to survive their inspired opponents.

That inspiration persisted; Stefanos and Petros would later in 2023 combine to win their first ATP doubles title in Antwerp.