One of the oldest tournaments in history, the Australian Open has a history which stretches all the way back to 1905, when it was played at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground (now known as the Albert Reserve Tennis Centre) and was managed by the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia (currently known as Tennis Australia).
First branded as the Australasian Championships, and then later the Australian Championships in 1927 and finally the Australian Open in 1969, the tournament was not recognised as a major tennis event until 1924. The Australian Open’s rich history has seen it contested across two countries and seven cities, including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Christchurch and Hastings.
Due to its geographic isolation from the rest of the world, the Australian Open suffered in terms of attracting consistent quality fields and luring the best players from different parts of the planet. Many of the game’s greats such as Pancho Gonzales and Manuel Santana never played any form of the Australian Open, while more modern-day legends like Bjorn Norg and Ilie Nastase only competed once. Inconvenient scheduling around the Christmas and New Year period was also a factor in players opting to remain in Europe and America during the early stages of the Australian Open.
It wasn’t until well after the establishment of the ‘Open Era’ in 1968 - the date where Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to complete alongside amateurs - that the Australian Open really began to take off as a worldwide juggernaut. The Australian Open moved to the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in 1972 and was played on grass until it was moved to Flinders Park (later renamed as Melbourne Park) in 1988. The ever-growing Melbourne Park precinct remains the location for the Australian Open today.
Stars such as Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf became champions of the revamped Australian Open during it’s history at Kooyong, and their participation and subsequent success paved the way for a continuation of global tennis superstars to erase previous history and consistently make the trip to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open, allowing the event to genuinely categorise itself as a grand slam tournament of tennis.
Modern-day legends Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis won the tournament on multiple occasions throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, while more recent champions to etch their names on the silverware include the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka.
Today the Australian Open is played on blue Plexicushion (moving from 20 years of Rebound Ace in 2008) and is consistently one of the most popular annual sporting events in the world, last year attracting a record crowd over the fortnight of over 720,000 people. It was also the first Grand Slam tournament to feature indoor play due to wet weather or extreme heat, with the Australian Open leading the way with its three primary courts - Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena - all equipped with retractable roofs.
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