With just four days to go, it's time to start thinking about where to watch the Australian Open finals in Melbourne. That's right – having withstood more than four days of 40+ temperatures, huge crowds and Bernard Tomic's dodgy groin, the finish line is now within sight. The women's and men's finals will take place on Saturday and Sunday evening, respectively, with a cool $2.6m on offer to each winner (the runners-up shouldn't feel too bad, each pocketing $1.3m).
Instead of selling a kidney for a ticket, why not enjoy the action on a big screen with a drink in hand at one of the many venues around town that will be screening both matches this weekend?
Whenever there's a big sporting event on – be it AFL Grand Final, World Cup soccer or Australian Open final – you can bet on Federation Square being packed to the gills with locals and tourists alike enjoying the action on the big screen. Both the men's and women's finals will be screened live, and the site is also hosting a range of family-friendly Australian Open activities including activities, giveaways and merchandise stores all weekend.
Federation Square | Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets in Melbourne
Can't score – or afford – a ticket to one of the two finals this weekend? Soak up the atmosphere around Melbourne Park by picking up an Australian Open ground pass for just $29. It'll allow you to watch the centre court action from the comfy confines of Garden Square and enjoy the remaining matches on the outdoor courts. The pass also covers access to the Heineken Live Stage, where Clare Bowditch (Saturday) and The Rubens (Sunday) will perform hour-long sets.
Melbourne Park | Batman Avenue in Melbourne
PEACOCK INN HOTEL
We can't confirm if Northcote's Peacock Inn Hotel has the biggest screen in town – but the pub's HD projector, which beams live sport in eye-popping size onto an entire wall, must come close. If the pseudo-IMAX experience doesn't do it for you, there are three separate big-screen TVs plus two pool tables, retro arcade games, a huge, partially covered beer garden and a menu of hearty and well-priced pub fare. Hands down one of the best pubs in town to watch the Australian Open finals, or any other finals for that matter.
Peacock Inn Hotel | 201 High Street in Northcote
MELBOURNE CENTRAL ROOFTOP TENNIS CLUB
Level three of Melbourne Central is one of the places you would least expect to find an open-air, three-quarter sized tennis court. But the Rooftop Tennis Club – next to Strike Bowling – has been one of the city's best spots to unwind during the tournament. As well as the court – free to use – and the live broadcasts, there's a display of the latest Nike gear and street food vendors open from 11am daily.
Melbourne Central | Swanston Street in Melbourne
CROWN SPORTS BAR
Crown's famous Sports Bar is as close as you'll get to an American sports bar without leaving town. Think more than 20 screens to ensure you don't miss a shot, a huge selection of Australian and international beers and everything from the Superbowl to NBA basketball and English Premier League soccer shown live. This weekend, there are two-for-one Heineken deals between 5-6pm and, with the venue open from 11am Saturday until 11am Monday without closing its doors, you don't even need go to home between matches!
Crown Sports Bar | The West End at Crown, Level 1, Clarendon Street entrance in Southbank
CHARLES DICKENS TAVERN
On weekends, this quaint little basement pub gets pretty rowdy with English expats cheering on their Premier League teams. But while soccer is the main attraction, the homely watering hole is seriously committed to all sports. Enjoy the Australian Open finals with a pint of Guinness over a traditional pub meal (think fish and chips or bangers and mash). Just don't get into a debate with the expats about the merits of the Australian Open v Wimbledon – you won't win.
Charles Dickens Tavern | 290 Collins Street in Melbourne
TURF BAR AND RESTAURANT
You need only visit Turf Bar's website to understand what a mecca it for sports fans – there's live tennis, cricket, NBA, NHL and soccer (domestic and international) daily throughout summer. Best of all, if you miss a match due to other commitments (after all, some of us have to work), many events are replayed.
There are two huge screens and a number of plasmas, more than 20 beers and a menu of steaks, pizzas and standard pub meals. Best of all, the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming – just what you want if you're to sit through a long five-setter.
Turf Bar and Restaurant | 131 Queen Street in Melbourne
The Rose, in the heart of Fitzroy just a couple of block from Brunswick Street, is a throw back to what inner-city pubs used to be like before developers took over. With vintage footy memorabilia on the walls, a classic wood-panelled bar and bargain food prices that will have you exclaiming 'I can't believe I'm in Fitzroy!', The Rose is a great place to pull up a bar stool and spend an evening. Live sport is shown in three separate rooms, including a sunny atrium out the back.
The Rose | 406 Napier Street in Fitzroy
VILLAGE BELLE HOTEL
Like The Rose is to Fitzroy, The Village Belle Hotel is an old school oasis in otherwise gentrified St Kilda. Big screen TVs are dotted throughout the entire venue, which includes a sports bar (complete with TAB facilities), a bistro and a courtyard. For dinner, choose from one of five different parmas or enjoy an award-winning steak. Remarkably, the Village Belle has stood proudly since 1855, and was even a popular hangout for criminal Squizzy Taylor – subject of a recent Underbelly series – in the 1920s.
Village Belle Hotel | 202 Barkly Street in St Kilda
COLLEGE LAWN HOTEL
The College Lawn describes itself as a "hidden gem," but for anyone that lives south of the Yarra, it's not so much hidden as it is one of the best places to sip away a weekend. The massive beer garden – which holds up to 200 thirsty punters and has an outdoor bar with 10 beers on tap – is known as one of Melbourne's best. The tennis finals will be shown on some of the 13 plasmas in and around the venue, and Sunday will also feature Australia Day fun including a Hottest 100 party and a BBQ buffet.
College Lawn Hotel | 36 Greville Street in Prahran
Image Credits: Australian Open