The Australian Open is usually the upbeat beginning of the tennis calendar, kicking off in January but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic it's been a little delayed this year.
It may be a month late but the Australian Open is still the biggest tennis event of the first part of the year, and the first Grand Slam tournament in the schedule, and top players including Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are in the competition.
When is the Australian Open this year?
The Australian Open has already started, and runs for two weeks ending on Sunday 21 February.
Watch the Australian Open free with a VPN
If you want to watch live, you have a few options. Like the ATP Cup that took place just beforehand, the tournament is being broadcast on Channel 9 in Australia, which is free to watch, and livestreamed on 9Now. The only complication? You need to be in Australia to access it, and to create an account with an Australian zip code.
If you’re outside of Oz then you should be able to watch 9Now through a VPN however, which will let you browse the web as if you were based in a different country.
How to watch on TV or online in the UK
In the UK you can watch the Australian Open on Eurosport. If you have a basic Sky entertainment package your subscription should include Eurosport 1 and 2 – they are on 410 and 411, while the HD versions are 864 and 865. You can also watch through the Sky Go app if you prefer.
Eurosport is also available through BT on 412 & 413 for the regular versions, or 435 & 436 for high definition. You'll need the Entertainment bundle, but if you don't have it you can upgrade your subscription here. The BT TV and BT Sports app will also let you watch there.
Finally, Virgin Media subscribers need to head to channels 521, 522, 523 and 524. You'll need the Bigger, Bigger + Movies or Ultimate Oomph bundle, but you can upgrade your package if you'd like.
If you'd rather watch from a computer or phone you can do that too, on the Eurosport Player. You can buy an annual or monthly pass here, with prices starting from £4.99 per month.
If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime then you might prefer to just watch through that. You can add Eurosport Player to your Prime account, which normally costs £6.99 per month, and then watch through your TV, laptop, phone, or tablet.
However, right now existing Prime members can also sign up to the service for 99p per month for two months (and take advantage of a 30-day free trial of Prime, if you don't have that yet). But get in quick, as this deal ends on 21 February.
That won't cover the full tournament of course, but could net you coverage of the full second week, which includes the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals of both the men's and women's tournaments - all the best bits anyway, barring any exciting first week upsets.
Watch the ATP Cup on TV or online from the US
Finally, if you’re in the US you can watch on ESPN.
This may already be included in your cable package, but if not you can access it through online service Sling. ESPN is included in the service’s Orange plan – so it would cost $35 per month, though the first month is reduced to $25. There's also a three-day free trial, so if you time it right you could use this to watch the finals entirely for free.
You can also get ESPN as part of a bundle with Disney+ and Hulu, for $12.99 per month if you're happy with ads on Hulu, or $18.99 per month if you want the ad-free version.
Finally, the tournament will also be broadcast on The Tennis Channel, which may also be available on your cable plan, or through the Sling sports add-on.
Australian Open 2021 schedule
The Australian Open is spread across a 14-day period with the Men’s and Women’s singles tournaments taking place simultaneously. You can view the official schedule here, but this is the rough structure:
- First round (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 8 & 9 February
- Second round (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 10 & 11 February
- Third round (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 12 & 13 February
- Fourth round (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 14 & 15 February
- Quarter-finals (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 16 & 17 February
- Semi-finals (Men’s and Women’s singles) – 18 & 19 February
- Women’s final – 20 February
- Men’s final – 21 February
Will fans be allowed to attend the Australian Open?
After much debate, as many as 30,000 fans will be permitted to attend the Australian Open each day in Melbourne.
That's the capacity permitted for the first eight days of the tournament, split between the day and night sessions, though it will be reduced to 25,000 per day from the quarter-finals on.
That means organisers expect around 390,000 attendees in total over the tournament - about half what the Australian Open usually attracts, but significantly more than any tennis tournament since last year's Australian Open.