Tennis fans from all over the world flock to Australia in the second week of January every year to attend the Australian Open, one of four Grand Slam competitions in professional tennis. The event is held at Melbourne Park and gives a great start to the year in tennis, preceding the Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open, the other three tennis tournaments making up the Grand Slam.
The tournament, which is the biggest and most important sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere, is also called the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific and is eagerly awaited and received with much enthusiasm by tennis aficionados each year. The fact that the event recorded the highest attendance at a Grand Slam tournament stands as proof to its popularity. No less than 743,667 people attended the Australian Open in 2018.
When it comes to competition types during the event, it should be mentioned that the tournament includes men’s and women’s singles, men’s, women’s and mixed doubles, as well as junior’s championships. Additionally, there are events dedicated to wheelchair-bound players and legends.
In the last decade, the tennis championship has been dominated by the “Big Four”, comprised of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray.
Short history of Australian Open
The Australian Open was first introduced in 1905, when it was called Australasian Championships and was played at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground in Melbourne.
In the beginning, it used to take place across different cities in Australia, including Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, but starting 1987 it was only held in Melbourne. The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club housed the event from 1972 until 1988, when it moved to a more permanent venue – the Melbourne Park complex.
In the early 20th century, foreign players were a rare sight at the tournament due to the distant geographical location of Australia, but in 1946 several US-based tennis players entered the competition.
Over time, the dates of the Australian Open fluctuated greatly. This happened mostly in the early years and was due to the fact that this mega tennis event did not have a fixed location and organizers decided the dates based on the climate of each site.
If in 1919, the competition was held in the month of January, the next year it was moved to the middle of March, while in 1923 it took place in August. Actually, the Australian Open didn’t have a fixed date until 1977. From then on, it has always been held over the last fortnight of January each year.
Grass Court vs Hard Court
In its inception, the Australian Open was played on a grass ground. Things didn’t change until 1988 when hard courts began to replace the grass ones. At the moment, this tennis event is played on hard courts, three of which also have retractable roofs, which allows play to continue even in harsh weather conditions, like heavy rain or extreme heat.
The Australian Open has come a long way since its beginnings and prominent names in the tennis world have stepped foot on the Melbourne Park floors and displayed their skills and talent. Some of the legends that won this big tournament include Roy Stanley Emerson, Mats Wilander, Kenneth Robert Rosewall, Rod Laver, Rafael Nadar and Roger Federer. As for women that made a name for themselves in Melbourne, worth mentioning are Steffi Graf, Nancy Wynne Bolton, Margaret Smith, and Martina Hingis.