The history of tennis in Australia as a sport dates back to around 1900, when the so-called lawn tennis began to rapidly gain popularity around the world. Thanks to the efforts of Walter Wingfield, previously unknown entertainment for kings became one of the favorite games of all classes, which was the beginning of the development of such a sport as tennis.
Australian open: a bit of history
Naturally, the new popular game has not bypassed Australia, and already in 1905 the first tournament was held here, which was called the Australasian Championship. The event was organized by the Melbourne Cricket Club. In the debut championship in the history of Australian tennis 17 tennis players took part, and more than five thousand spectators came to watch the competitions.
After almost 20 years, in 1922, women finally came to tennis. Since then, not only men’s championships have been held, but also mixed competitions for men and women. The first win among women was Australian tennis player Margaret Molesworth.
Already in 1923, the Australasian Championship became one of the main tournaments of the well-known “Grand Slam”, and a few years later the championship finally got its first official name – the Australian Championship.
However, not everything went smoothly. Due to the location of the continent, many athletes in the first half of the 20th century had to refuse to participate in the tournament. This is because at that time the road from Europe to Australia on the ship took more than a month. This seemed inexpedient to most athletes. Nevertheless, there were those who were willing to spend so much time for the sake of participating in the tournament, and the first participant and winner was the American Fred Alexander in 1908.
But even the people of Australia did not always have the opportunity to participate in the tournament. The venue always changed, the organizers tried to find the optimal place. Thus, in the period from 1905 to 1971, the championship was held in almost every corner of Australia and even beyond its borders. Most of the tournaments were held in big cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, but it also did not bypass Adelaide, Brisburn and even New Zealand. And yet, due to this location, many world-class players still could not attend the Australian Championship. After nearly 70 years of wandering, it was nevertheless decided to hold the tournament always in the same city. Thus, in 1972, this city became Melbourne, and the grass courts of the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club became the venue.
The years after the war, surprisingly, became the golden time for Australian tennis. With the advent of constant communication by air, the Australian Championship has become increasingly popular. But the popularity was also promoted by the fact that the Australian players did not waste time in vain, and at that time they had already managed to show themselves at the world tennis Olympus. Among the names it is worth mentioning the notorious Norman Brooks and Harry Nopman, who in the 50s-60s of the last century brought incredible popularity to Australian tennis.
This is where the Australian open history we know today begins. With the beginning of the “Open Era”, everything changed dramatically. Now professionals have started to admit to tournaments, so the name of the Australian tournament has changed to “Australian open”. At the first open championship, the already well-known Estonian Toomas Leius arrived, who managed to reach 3 laps in singles.
The tournament name was still changing, but not significant. Depending on the name of the sponsors’ company, the name of the tournament also changed. Thus, in 1971, the tournament was called “Dunlop Australian Open”, in 1984 – “Marlboro Australian Open”, and in the same 1984 championship was renamed “Ford Australian Open”.
But, despite the growing popularity of the championship among foreign athletes, the Australians also did not lose ground, and in 1972, Australian Ken Rosewall became the winner for the fourth time. It is worth noting that Rosewall already won the championship back in 1953, at the age of 18. Thus, he became at the same time the youngest athlete to win the championship, as well as the oldest, as Rosewall won in 1972 at the age of 37.
In subsequent years, the organizers could not decide at what time it is better to hold the championship. Thus, in 1972, the championship was held in the last days of December, so many athletes had to celebrate holidays away from home and relatives. Of course, this was the reason that many professional tennis players, who had enough participation in other championships, began to miss the championship in Australia. Among these athletes is the American Chris Evert, who missed the championship six times, and Czech Martin Navratilova missed the Australian open four times. Some of the world’s athletes appeared in the tournament only once, which ultimately led to the fact that the winners were those athletes who would not have a chance to win in any other tournament. Thus, in 1976, a player from Australia named Mark Edmondson won the tournament, although his position in the general list was below the 200th place. By the way, Edmondson was the last Australian to win the Australian open.
Also, the decline in the popularity of the “Australian open” was due to the poor funding of the tournament, therefore many world tennis stars had no interest in participating. The prize funds were so low and unequal that even the inhabitants of Australia stopped coming to the championship. In addition, the gain in the female category was three times less than in the male one.
Therefore, the organizers had to try hard to increase funding and again attract the attention of not only Australian athletes, but also world tennis stars. Thus, thanks to the common efforts of the sponsors, as well as the sale of rights to broadcast tournaments, the total prize fund was significantly increased.
The organizers also tried to change the time of the tournament again, but all for nothing. Even postponing the championship dates to November – the leading racket of the world still missed participation in the tournament, choosing more profitable options. In addition, the holding of the tournament at the end of the year, when all athletes began to feel very tired after a tense game-season, also did not contribute to its popularity. Therefore, the dates were postponed again, and this time it was decided to hold the tournament at the end of January. Although, for many, this time frame is still uncomfortable, as it is very hot in Australia at this time of year. But even so, “Australian open” today occupies an honorable second place in attendance, as many fans come with children who are just starting their holidays at this time of year.
Due to the fact that the Australian Open has once again begun to gain popularity, the ITF has decided to build a new tennis complex in Melbourne Flinders Park, which was completed in record time, and in 1988 they held a new championship there.
Interesting fact: National Tennis Center at Flinders Park – as the new complex began to be called – became the world’s first tennis building with a retractable roof, which allows for a particularly hot days to cover the court area from direct sunlight.
Australian open today
Today “Australian open” continues to develop and make participation in the tournament comfortable not only for athletes, but also for spectators. Thus, the capacity of the arenas is constantly increasing, depending on the number of visitors, and the coverage of the courts changes for a more comfortable game. Official matches are held on 19 courts, all others are used as training grounds. Importantly, training on these courts for the participants of the tournament is always free.
In 2005, the Australian open celebrated its centenary. On the occasion of such a date, the Australian Post began to produce two types of postage stamps depicting tennis players and the main dates. The Royal Australian Mint also contributed its lep, releasing a $ 5 commemorative coin with the image of a tennis player and this memorable date.
In 2007, it was decided to hold tournaments among people with disabilities in wheelchairs, which also contributed to the popularity of the “Australian open”.
In 2017, the championship logo was changed. That year’s sensations were: the World’s 2nd racket and current champion Novak Djokovic from Serbia in the 2nd round lost to Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan (6: 7 (8); 7: 5; 6: 2; 6: 7 (5); 4 : 6), which occupies the 117th position in the ranking.
For the first time in 39 years, two representatives of the Top-4 Agnieszka Radwanska (3) from Poland and Simone Halep (4) from Romania failed to reach the 3rd round of the competition. In the 4th circle, the World’s1st racket and the current champion Angelica Kerber from Germany got off the track.
And the tournament was won by 35-year-old veterans: Swiss Roger Federer, standing in 17th ranking (5th championship title) and American Serena Williams (7th title). And the most exciting won was taken by 14-year-old Ukrainian Martha Kostiuk, who unexpectedly became the winner, 3 years younger than her main rivals.