In its 110 year history the Tennis Australian Open and its spectators saw thousands of brilliantly played matches between some of the world’s best match play champion’s; however, some of these matches became moments in history to be remembered because their light shone just a little brighter than all the other stars over the years. Finals matches such as the 1969 men’s singles finals battle that saw the legendary Australian “Rocket” Rod Laver defeat Tony Roche in a pivotal victory on his road to become the only player that won the Grand Slam title twice.
Another finals match, rated by tennis historian Steve Flink as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time, etched to memory after the 1981 defeat of number 1 ranked Chris Evert at the hands of Martina Navratilova. John McEnroe the seven time Grand Slam winner, not being one to shy away from confrontation became the first tennis player in history to be turfed from any Grand Slam Open era finals match.
The Beginnings of the Australian Tennis Open
Rodney George Laver enjoyed a professional career spanning 24 years and retained his position as the world No. 1 ranked professional player from 1964 until 1970. He took his first Tennis Australian Open title in 1960 after defeating Neale Fraser a fellow Australian player he went on to win the same title on another two occasions despite suffering from a ban lasting five years in the pre-Open era. He still holds an all-time male singles record of having taken 22 titles during a single season in 1962.
Martina Navratilova is still the only player in history to have remained in the No. 1 ranked position in both doubles and singles for a period in excess of 200 weeks. She achieved this by remaining in the singles top spot for 332 weeks and a new doubles record of 237 weeks. She also currently still holds the record for having retained the No. 1 singles ranking for five consecutive years. She deservedly received an award from Tennis magazine as the greatest female tennis player during the years 1965 to 2005.
John McEnroe, regarded as one of the greatest Tennis players of all time, became famous for his volleying skills, artistry in shot-making, as matches for his confrontational centre-court behaviour. His 82-3 match record of 1984 remains the best ever recorded win rate in a single season during the Open Era, and remained in the No. 1 ranked position for a record eight years, captured 19 Grand Prix Super Series singles titles, which forms part of his 77 singles and 72 doubles ATP-listed titles.
Top Australian Open Players
Rod Laver claimed both the US & Australian Junior championship titles by the end of 1957 and broke through onto the world stage during the 1959 Wimbledon championship where he reached all three the finals matches. The 1960 Australian Open Championships became his first successful major title, in 1964 he went on to become only the second male in history to capture all four Grand Slam titles and act the repeated in 1969 to become the first player in history to complete the monumental task twice in his career.
Martina Navratilova won her first Czechoslovakian national tennis championships, aged 15 in 1972, by 1973 she debuted at the United States Lawn Tennis Association’s professional tour despite the fact that she only turned professional in 1975. In 1974 she achieved the first of many professional singles titles in Orlando, Florida aged 17, in 1975 having teamed up with world No.1 ranked Chris Evert to capture the women’s French Open doubles title, and act repeated in 1976 to capture the Women’s Wimbledon doubles crown. In 1978 she achieved her first major women’s singles victory when she claimed her first Wimbledon title, this marked the start of a truly remarkable career. 1981 marked her first victory in the women’s finals of the Tennis Australian Open championship.
John McEnroe made his entry as an 18-year-old by winning the 1977 French Open mixed doubles title, while partnered with Mary Carrillo, and followed this up by making it through to the 1977 Wimbledon men’s singles semi-finals where he was stopped by Jimmy Connors after four sets. The next year he won the 1978 team and singles titles of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, he joined the ATP tour late in 1978 and immediately turned professional. He later went on to defeat the Vitas Gerulaitis at the US Open in straight sets, thereby becoming the youngest male singles title winner.
Highlights of the Australian Open
Rod Laver’s greatness and contribution to the sport will forever be remembered after his 1981 induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and his 1985 inclusion into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. A later declaration named him an Australian Living Treasure and in 2009 he received his induction into Queensland’s Sport Hall of Fame. The Tennis Australian Open bestowed him the honour of having the main centre court named after him in 2000, and in 2003 received honours from the Australia Post Australian Legends Award by having his portrait emblazoned on a postage stamp.
Martina Navratilova received recognition from Tennis magazine in 2005 after they elected her, over Steffi Graf, as the greatest women’s tennis player during the years 1965 to 2005. In 2006, she was also named as one of the LGBT History Month Icons, and in June 2011 she received a listing from Time Magazine in the 30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present, and Future. The Tennis Channel followed this up in March 2012, naming her the second greatest women’s tennis player in history, this time behind Steffi Graf, in the publication’s listing of the 100 greatest tennis players in history. Navratilova, on 2 August 2013, became one of the first inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
John McEnroe first achieved the top ranked position in the world as men’s singles player on 3 March 1980, a position he repeatedly reached on another 13 occasions from 1980 to 1985 a period that included him ranked as the world’s No. 1 player for four years in a row from 1981 until 1984. In his career carried the title as the No. 1 ranked men’s singles position in the world no less than 170 weeks in total.
Interesting Facts and Moments of Australian Tennis Open
According to Rod Laver, his greatest grand slam of his life never occurred during a tennis tournament, it happened in 1966 at a San Raphael church where he married his wife Mary Shelby Laver who then remained at his side as his best friend for the next 46 years until her passing on 12 November 2012.
After Rod’s tennis career ended, he once, in the late 1970s as a 38-year-old stood across a net from the then 18-year-old Bjorn Borg and realised despite the fact that he could not beat Borg any more he could still stay with him.
As one of the original bad boys of tennis, John McEnroe heightened his position as one of the most controversial players in history by receiving numerous fines for unsportsmanlike behaviour. These fines he later followed up by becoming the first player in history to be dismissed from the field, thereby handing his victory by default to his opponent, due to his uncontrollable temper tantrums. He raised the hackles of the controlling bodies in the tennis world by calling an umpire “the pits of the world” which he followed up with the later to become famous phrase “you cannot be serious”. One characteristic only present in his play against the legendary “Ice-man” Bjorn Borg, is McEnroe never once lost his temper in matches against this emotionless player.