How to attend tennis tournaments on a budget…

By James Steel

We all love watching tennis (hence the reason why you’re reading an article from this website) and we all have dreamed about being in the biggest stadiums, witnessing the biggest names play live and in front of our very own eyes. This is something I’ve undertaken over the last 12 months and I have some very helpful tips for doing this on a budget.  

1. Knowing when to buy tickets

Some events will have earlier bird pricing for tickets to the event. This is where you need to know what tournaments you wish to attend and plan in advance. The ATP have released a programme of next year’s events so you can start planning for next year. Unfortunately the WTA aren’t as forthcoming.  

Make sure you go onto the event website and look up the ticketing section to see when they will be putting the tickets on general sale. Sometimes they won’t say but you can sign up to the tournament newsletter where they will announce that tickets have gone on sale. Similarly, follow the tournament social media accounts as they will publish when they have put the tickets out for general sale. This is a good way of getting the best cheap seats for the events you wish to attend.  

2. Book well in advance

This is something I don’t think I need to say much on but the earlier you buy your transport and accommodation, the cheaper it will be. Airlines and Hoteliers have systems that increase the price of a ticket or room the closer the day of the flight/stay will occur and this will be sped up more by people purchasing these services before you. So if you can buy all these elements when you know you can go, you will save money on shopping around closer to the time of the tournament.   

3. Buy tickets for days earlier in the week

This goes without saying but the earlier in the tournament you go, the cheaper the tickets will be. There are a couple advantages to going earlier as well. First, the venue will be looking its best and choices of products and services will be plentiful. Also, for grass court tournaments, the grass will be at its shiny green best in the first couple of days. Second would be the ability to see more players during the earlier days and even see players of your nationality that you can instantaneously support. However, keep in mine that most tournaments will give their top seeds first round byes and as such, unless they are playing doubles, you’ll most likely miss them. I will also add to this that if you go in the qualifying rounds, some tournaments allow fans in for free which is brilliant for sneaking in an extra day at the tennis. 

4. Buy tickets for smaller courts

This is a must do if you wish to save money whilst watching the biggest names. I will for this scenario use Monte-Carlo as a case in point. The centre court of most stadiums will have the biggest names playing but will have the most expensive seat (even in the gods). However, the second or even third courts at the venue will have lesser quality names but cheaper seats.  

If you go earlier in the week or go the the day before all singles matches get moved to centre court for the round of 16 or quarterfinals, you will get a great bargain as seeded players will be playing out on the second court due to there being not enough match slots on centre to play all seeded players.  

This is what I achieved with Monte-Carlo. I picked up a Round 64/32 ticket for centre (Rainier III) on my first day (again the earlier in the week you go, the cheaper the centre court tickets) for the price of 60 Euros but on the next day (Round 32), I picked up tickets for the second court (Des Princes) for half the the previous day’s amount (30 Euros) and caught Cameron Norrie, Taylor Fritz, Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev. Arguably an absolute bargain and being on a smaller court you feel closer to the players. 

5. Join loyalty programmes

Hotel and transport costs are the two most expensive items you’ll pay for next to the price of tennis tickets. It’s important to keep these costs as low as possible. For this, being a member of a hotel group or airline alliance can be incredibly helpful for lowering costs.  

In Europe, there are two main accommodation groups to be aware of. They are IHG and Accor. Both these hotel groups have well known budgeted hotels under their control. Examples for IHG include the Holiday Inn and for Accor, the IBIS range of budget hotels. They also have loyalty schemes whereby the more times to stay at their hotels, the more points you build up to spend on stays at any hotel in their group. They also offer small discounts off hotel stays which can go a long way to keeping the costs down.  

Similarly. for airline alliances such as Oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam. If you can stay with airlines from these alliances, you can build up points which can be spent on further flights. Perfect for those who wish to find a way to save up for a long haul tennis tournament option (I’m hoping to get to Indian Well’s with this system). It’s important to note though that where possible you stick with one of these groups and alliances as only with constant use and points building will you get the rewards at the end. 

6. Research and use public transport to get to the venue

When traveling around the destination, you will need to find the quickest and cheapest way to get from the airport to the hotel to the tennis venue. If possible try and stay somewhat close to the venue but if not, learn the local public transport routes and the costs for tickets. 

You can do this via a range of different sources. Most tennis attractions are located in major cities which will have a dedicated website that will display the routes and the type of transport that route will follow. A good way of working out the closed stop to the venue from your hotel is to use the directions feature of Good Maps. This feature will also give you an idea on journey time and where best to make any connections. 

Price of transport is a factor to consider as well. Look again on the destinations transport website and see what ticket options are available. They may have a day, 2 days, weekly or monthly transport pass that you could purchase and this could save you money instead of constantly buying single tickets from one stop to another. These passes may also give you options to travel to different parts of the destination allowing you to further explore the place you are staying in.  

7. Learn a few words and phrases of the native language

Unless you are based in North America and traveling around that continent, you will generally experience a different language to the native one you know. The best piece of advice would be to learn some of the language of the place you’re traveling to and use it as much as possible in conversations with locals. You will be showing a great deal of respect by doing this and the locals may be less likely to try and rip you off if you are buying something from them.  

8. Be open about the kind of tournament you’re visiting

Grand Slams and ATP Masters 1000/WTA 1000 events aren’t the only tournaments you can travel to. There are lower level tour events such as 500 and 250s throughout the world that attract some of the biggest names to their venue. A very good example would be Antwerp and Marseille 250s where quarterfinal tickets can be as little as €40 for a ticket. Given the quality of players you can see, it works out as a cracking deal.  

Looking even further down the tennis calendar to ATP Challengers, WTA 125 and ITF W100/80/60 events can provide high quality tennis in venues with a range of facilities. I myself attended the Surbiton trophy in May which was a Challenger 125 and an ITF W100 event in SW London. The quality of the tennis was exceptional and there was plenty of good seating on the main stands, food and drink options from an onsite catering service (granted an expensive catering service) and easy transport links to get to the venue. These tickets were £20 for the most expensive days and the number of matches you can see makes that £20 stretch incredibly far. 

9. Bring as much food and drink to the venue as you can

This is the one area you will budget for thinking you’ve allocated enough and still by the end of your trip will end up spending more than the initial budget. Food and drink at tennis tournaments is expensive, especially the purpose built tennis venues. The most outrageous prices I’ve witnessed would be the €16 for a pasta pot in Monte-Carlo and £8 for a BLT sandwich at the Surbiton trophy.   

If you have a tournament with a liberal policy on bringing in food and drink, then stock up on it before arriving at the venue. This will allow you to save money throughout the day as you’ll be eating and drinking your own supplies. 

What you need to do is really read through the dos and don’ts section on your tournament website and work out what you can get away with. At Wimbledon for example, you can bring in two cans of beer or a bottle of wine per person. However, when I went to Queen’s, there was no allowance of bringing in alcoholic drinks and you could bring in light snacks.  

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Hope these 9 tips will help when it comes to booking your next trip to a tennis tournament!

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