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Six steps to the Australian Open

by Alexandra Willis
Monday 9 January 2012

1. What is it?

The year's first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open is the only tennis major held in the southern hemisphere, held for the first time, on grass, at the Warehouseman's Cricket Ground in Melbourne in 1905. First known as the Australasian Championships, it changed its name to the Australian Championships in 1927, before finally settling on the Australian Open in 1969.Though it started in 1905, the tournament was not designated as being a major championship by the International Lawn Tennis Federation, now the International Tennis Federation, until 1924.

2. When is it?

Before the era of the Melbourne Park stadium, fluctuating climate meant that the tournament moved dates as well as venues during its early life. The 1919 tournament, for example, was held in January 1920, and the 1920 tournament followed soon after in March 1920, while the 1923 tournament in Brisbane took place in August. There were two tournaments held on the cusp of December and January in 1976 and 1977, while from 1982-1985, it took place in mid December. Finally, in January 1987, the tournament moved to its current time-slot in mid January, and hasn't moved since.

3. Where is it?

The Australian Open has made a few travels in its lifetime, and has been staged in no less than seven different cities. Held in Melbourne 55 times, Sydney 17 times, Adelaide 14 times, Brisbane seven times, Perth three times, Christchurch in 1906, and Hastings in 1912, both in New Zealand. In 1972 it was decided to let the tournament settle in one spot, and so it was that it came to rest at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club just outside Melbourne's city centre from 1972 to 1987, before moving to the new hard court structure at Melbourne Park, on the banks of the Yarra River, in 1988. In 2010, it was announced that Melbourne Park was to benefit from a major redevelopment, securing the tournament's future there until 2036 at least.

4. Who will be there?

Unlike in ye olden days, when very few foreign players made the trek down to the Australasian continent, the Australian Open has become the must-do of the first part of the year. Outside of the Australians (Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver), Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander were its stalwarts during the 1980s during the move from Kooyong to Melbourne Park, followed by Andre Agassi in the 1990s and 2000s, and Roger Federer in the latter 2000s. Both Agassi and Federer hold the Open era record for four Australian Open titles. Serena Williams holds the ladies Open era record with five Australian Open titles.

As for favourites for this year's title? Andy Murray and Petra Kvitova are the particular form players, having picked up titles in Brisbane and the Hopman Cup respectively, but with Australia, it's usually anyone's guess.

5. Fascinating facts

  • The first tennis players who came by aircraft to the Australian Open were the US Davis Cup players in November 1946.
  • There was no Australian Open in 1986.
  • Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the only players to win the Australian Open on both Rebound Ace and Plexicushion Prestige.
  • The 2010 Australian Open achieved the highest ever single-day day/night attendance record for any Grand Slam tournament of 77,043.
  • Martina Navratilova holds the record for most Australian Open titles in the Open era, with a total of 12 - three singles, eight women's doubles and one mixed doubles.
  • The defending champions for 2012 are Novak Djokovic (men's singles), Kim Clijsters (women's singles), Bob & Mike Bryan (men's doubles), Gisela Dulko & Flavia Penntta (women's doubles), and Katarina Srebotnik & Daniel Nestor (mixed doubles).

6. Don't forget to...

Prepare yourself for nocturnal living. Tea, coffee, late-night snacks and a record function are a must. Enjoy!

Want to know more? Check out the Australian Open’s A to Z

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