aus open 21 300x186 photoThe Australian Open has long held perhaps the most interesting place in the tennis season, as it comes just a couple of weeks into the new calendar year.The first Grand Slam of the year is hosted over the last two weeks of January. Therefore, players don’t have much time back on court in competitive matches before heading to Melbourne Park. The women compete for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup and the winning male competitor takes the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. Ranking points are on offer at the Slam and the prize money at the event hit its highest ever level, $30,000,000 Australian dollars in 2013.

 

Melbourne Park

The Australian Open was introduced to the world in 1905, first introduced as the Australaisan Championships as it was also held in New Zealand as well. After undergoing a transformation as the Australian Championships, it became the Australian Open in 1969. The tournament finally became settled in Melbourne because of the growing interesting, and in 1988 it moved to the newly constructed Melbourne Park, in order to take advantage of an increase in attendance, allowing for over 250,000 spectators. The main courts are the Rod Laver Arena and the Hisense Arena, and attendance at the Australian Open is second only to that of the US Open of all four majors. Up until 1987, the Australian Open was actually played on a grass surface, but that all changed with the move to Melbourne Park.

 

Past Champions

Because of how remote the early championships were, there was a strong presence of Australasian winners. Australia’s Rodney Heath was the inaugural winner, who would go on to win it again in 1910. Fred Alexander because the first man from outside of the continent to win the event, taking the title in 1908 over Australia’s Alfred Dunlop. Britain’s first winner of the event was James Cecil Parke in 1912, in what was an all British final against Alfred Beamish. It wasn’t until 1922 that the first women’s draw was held and Australia’s Margaret Molesworth took the first two titles. Esna Boyd Robertson ended up as runner up in the first five editions before winning in 1927.

 

In the 1930’s Australia’s Jack Crawford took three titles in a row, ended by Fred Perry in the 1934, the last British winner of the Australian Open to date. Perhaps one of the most famous eras of the men’s game was in the 1960s with home grown talent Roy Emerson winning six times from 1961 to 1967, only interrupted by Rod Laver. It was Laver though who would go on to win the first ever Australian Open in its current guise. The women’s game in the 1960’s was dominated by Margaret Court, who won the title seven times in a row between 1960 and 1966 inclusive. She bounced back to win the first three Australian Open titles following it being renamed. Britain’s Virginia Wade took the title in 1972.

 

With the game becoming more global, Australaisina winners faded away, the 1950’s seeing Swedes Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg sharing a couple of titles each, before Ivan Lendl came along to win in consecutive year in 1989 and 1990. Martina Navratilova won the Australian Open three times in the early eighties, before Steffi Graf and Monica Seles shared titles between them over the latter end of the 80’s and early 90’s. Martina Hingis won three times in a row in the late nineties.

 

The nineties were mostly about American players, with Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi taking titles. The great German, Boris Becker won the tournament twice in 1991 and 1996. Roger Federer put his stamp on the title in 2004, 02006 and 2007, but power has most recently shifted to Novak Djokovic, who took his first title in 2008 and landed a three-peat taking the title again in 2011 through 2013. Serena Williams took the title five times in the early 2000’s, with Belarusian Victoria Azarenka winning in 2012 and 2013.