After a year of closed borders and other restrictions there are now some great new ways to watch the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open. Sure, spectators are still watching from the stadium but the numbers have been reduced due to COVID.
So as well as being able to watch the Grand Slam on Channel 9, the tournament’s major sponsor, Mastercard, has invested in two new features which will bring all of our tennis fans closer to the Australian Open (AO) than ever before. They’re called Virtual Fan and The Nation’s Spectators – and here’s how they work.
Virtual Fan is three humanoids who will be roving around the stadium, taking Aussies who are watching at home into the very heart of the grounds and providing a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s biggest tennis tournaments.
Through live-streamed footage and Zoom interactivity, viewers of the AO will be able to fully immerse themselves in the tournament experience wherever the three Virtual Fan humanoids roam. They’ll be getting amongst the players and then they’ll be a fly on the wall at some of the most coveted areas of the park.
Virtual Fan will have a virtual meeting with tennis legend Jim Courier and a livestream of a training session with Naomi Osaka. Tennis fans can even have their own five minutes of fame through a bespoke Instagram filter that will beam their face onto Virtual Fan: a chance to show their passion for the game and maybe even be seen on TV.
Another technology feature is the Nation’s Spectators which is where two of Australia’s biggest tennis fanatics – handpicked to capture the raw emotion and excitement of the AO – will connect the rest of the country with the tournament no matter where they are.
Ahead of the AO there was an extensive search held to find two of Australia’s most passionate tennis fans to take on the role of The Nation’s Spectators. Tennis fans from around the country shared their stories with Australian tennis legend, John Millman, who helped choose the two fans.
In the end, the two super fans were chosen – one was handpicked for his love for the sport and the other because he used his passion for tennis to bring his local community together during challenging times last year.
The Nation’s Spectators are:
Jonathan Kim Sing: Jonathan is one of Australia’s biggest tennis fans. Having grown up playing and spectating tennis with his family, Jonathan initiated his very own ‘local open’, bringing his local community together over a rally. The full-time maths teacher also analyses match statistics and player strategies from the grandstands.
- Marc Sophoulis: Despite losing work due to the pandemic and his house flooding, Marc used his love of tennis to help others navigate their way through 2020. Throughout the year, Marc mentored young children in his community and student athletes at his local school, teaching them to play tennis and helping them to stay positive and motivated.
With both Virtual Fan and The Nation’s Spectators, Australians all over the nation will be able to experience this Grand Slam in a much more interactive way than ever before.
As John Millman, professional tennis player (ATP ranked world number 38) says: “Marc and Jonathan both understand the power tennis holds to build optimism and bring people together, so I’m looking forward to watching the content they capture while they’re on ground.”
“The thing I love most about tennis is the ability it has to connect a nation,” adds Millman. “With borders uncertain, Mastercard wanted to help make sure that people could still come together for this year’s AO. The Virtual Fan and Nation’s Spectators will play an important role in connecting fans to the AO no matter where they are.”
Richard Wormald, Division President, Australasia, Mastercard said: “Mastercard believes everybody deserves the opportunity to attend the AO this year so, by combining technology and fan passion, Mastercard is hopeful even more people will be able to enjoy the tournament, and in a way that has never been done before.”
You can follow the footsteps of The Nation’s Spectators and Virtual Fan experiences at www.priceless.com
Any contact captured by The Nation’s Spectators will be shared at www.priceless.com
Or head to Instagram to try out Virtual Fan filter here.
The 2021 Australian Open runs from Monday February 8 until Sunday February 21.
How can I watch the Australian Open?
As well as these new technology features, The 2021 Australian Open is being broadcast on Channel Nine. Until the semi-finals, the main Nine channel will broadcast play from 10am to 6pm, with a break from 6-7pm for local news (the broadcast will move to 9Go during this period), then returning to Nine until the end of play.
A secondary broadcast of other matches will be shown on 9Gem. In the final days of the tournament, broadcasts will begin in the afternoon due to later start times. Check your local listings for more details.
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