The Tennis Australian Open Championship established itself as one of the world’s Premier tournaments staged annually during the last two weeks of January, with Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia as the elected event host. Chronologically it is the first of four annual global tennis events known as the Grand Slam, the US Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open being the other three events on the Grand Slam calendar.
The championship features women’s and men’s singles; women’s and men’s mixed doubles; Junior Championships; the exhibition and legends; and wheelchair events. Prior to 1988 the competition had traditionally been played on grass; however, since 1988 the Melbourne Park tournament sought two distinctly different types of hardcourt surfaces, from 1988 to 2007 a green Rebound Ace surface was used, with a blue Plexicushion utilised since 2008 till current.
The Australian Open Championship experiences extremely high attendance figures, second only to those experienced at the U.S. Open. It also became the first of the Grand Slam tournaments to feature retractable roofs over all three the primary courts, namely the Hisense Arena, and since its refurbishment the Margaret Court Arena, as well as the Rod Laver Arena.
The History of the Australian Tennis Open
The inaugural Australasian Championship event took place in 1905 at Melbourne’s Warehouseman Cricket Ground, later renamed to Albert Reserve Tennis Centre; in addition, in 1927 the tournament became known as the Australian Championships, only in 1969 did it finally receive its final renaming to become the Australian Open.
Since 1905, two New Zealand and five Australian cities hosted the event, the staging of the event distributed amongst the cities in the following manner: Adelaide hosted 14 events, Brisbane hosted seven events, Christchurch hosted in 1906, Hastings hosted in 1912, with the major cities Melbourne 55 times as event host, and with Sydney acting 17 times as host city.
Initially during its early 20th century history the tournament attracted few international players due to Australia’s remote geographic location, before the advent of intercontinental passenger flights a ship-bound trip from Europe to the tournament’s Australian venue took in excess of 45 days. Even local Australian players had to traverse their country via a train journey that could, dependent on the venue of the tournament, be in excess of 3000 kilometres spanning the distance between Australia’s west and east coasts, i.e. events held in Perth meant players from New South Wales or Victoria were simply unable to attend, and vice versa.
Prior to 1905 each Australian state and New Zealand held its own championships, the second Australasian Championship event, held in Christchurch during 1906, drew a tiny field of only 10 players that included just two Australians. This situation endured until November 1946, when finally a group of players competing in the US Davis Cup finally made the transpacific crossing by boat.
In addition, from its inception in 1905 until 1986, tournament dates continually moved around to accommodate the Christmas holidays, bad weather, and dates clashing with other tournaments further hampered the event. This gave rise to large numbers of world-class players that could not shuffle their professional event calendars around to accommodate the event dates and subsequently never had the opportunity to compete in the event, this problem continued until 1987, after which the tennis Australian Open Championship event dates had not changed again.
The Evolution of the Australian Tennis Open
The tournament was only designated as a major tennis event in 1924, the decision came after a 1923 meeting by the International Lawn Tennis Federation; at the same meeting, its tournament structure was changed to include seeding. In 1972, a decision was made electing the city of Melbourne to become the event’s permanent host; the verdict was based on this city historically having attracted the largest attendance of all Australian cities.
The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club hosted the Tennis Australian Open in Melbourne since 1972 until the 1988 completion of the new Melbourne Park sports venue in the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct. The new Melbourne Park venue, formerly known as Flinders Park, became an instant success, with attendance seeing a 90% increase in spectator numbers during the 1988 event, rising to 266,436, compared to the previous year where Kooyong saw a 140,000 spectators. The rising popularity of the event culminated in an attendance figure of 703,899 recorded during the 2015 tournament, with the total tournament prize monies totalling to AU$40 million.
In 2008 the New South Wales authorities announced their intentions to bid for the tournament hosting rights after Melbourne’s hosting contract expired in 2016, the move prompted the Victorian Events Industry Council after scathing attack on the NSW authorities, announced yet another major redevelopment of the Melbourne Park grounds. A year later, Victoria’s former Premier John Brumby confirmed the state’s commitment to a AU$363 million renovation project, which guaranteed retention of the event until beyond 2036.
One of the first highlights in the Tennis Australian Open Championship, that made the event memorable for Australians, occurred in 1911 when Australian player Norman Brookes brought home the men’s singles event title. The event went on to become known for brilliant tournament matches such as those seen in 1983 between the likes of Czechoslovakian Ivan Lendl one of the most dominant contenders during the 1980s, and the illustrious golden-tongued John McEnroe who captured the Grand Slam singles title seven times in his career.
The event gave rise to numerous further highlights since the event dates became a permanent fixture after 1987, its popularity and prestige rapidly grew leaps and bounds, finally attracting legendary player names such as Björn Borg and Ilie Năstase at the age of 35, both of whom only once had the opportunity to compete in the event.
After 1988 a host of international world championship contenders, including names such as Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi. The current crop of regularly competing reigning champions includes Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, and Maria Sharapova.
Australian Open Facts
The Australian player Roy Emerson currently still holds the record for having won the most men’s singles titles in the Australian open, with his six victories achieved from 1961 until 1967, he also holds the record for the most consecutive titles after being victorious five times with the first accomplished in 1963 and his last in 1967.
Another Australian player Margaret Court currently still holds the record for having won the most women’s singles titles in the Australian open, with a massive 11 victories achieved with the first achieved in 1960 and her last in 1973. Additionally, as with her compatriot above she also holds the record for the highest number of consecutive victories after having accomplished the task three years in a row, a record she shares with Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and Martina Hingis.
The youngest winner of the women’s singles trophy became the Slovakian born Martina Hingis after having lifted the title in 1997 while she was only 16 years and 4 months old. The title of youngest winner of the men’s singles trophy belongs to Australian-born Ken Rosewall after having lifted the title in 1953 at the age of 18 years and 4 months.