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Omens from Australia

2011 Wimbledon champions.
by Sarah Edworthy
Monday 13 February 2012

In seven of the past nine Grand Slam seasons, one of the Australian Open singles champions – either men’s or women’s, and in 2006 both - has gone on to claim the Wimbledon title six months later. Novak Djokovic, of course, achieved this feat last year, Serena Williams in 2010 and 2009, Roger Federer in 2007, Federer and Amelie Mauresmo in 2006, Federer in 2004 and Williams in 2003.

Until 1988, the Australian Open and Wimbledon were linked by the fact both tournaments were contested on grass. Then Tennis Australia opted to go ‘hard court’. Plexicushion Prestige – to give the surface its official name – doesn’t have the same ring as ‘grass’, but its introduction Down Under has coincided with stronger links between the two tournaments’ roll calls of honour.

You would have thought that form on grass in Melbourne would presage form on the emerald turf of Wimbledon, but, bizarrely, it is since 1988 that we have seen notably more examples of the Australian Open singles champion also going on to win on the courts of SW19.

So here's a little look back at some fun facts from the Australian Open to bear in mind ahead of Wimbledon 2012:

Only five men in the Open era have proceeded to win Wimbledon in the same season as they lifted the trophy in Melbourne: Rod Laver in 1969, Jimmy Connors in 1974, Pete Sampras in 1994 and 1997, Federer in 2004, 2006 and 2007, and Novak Djokovic in 2011. So two examples pre-1988 compared to six examples post grass.

Only six women have done the Australian/Wimbledon double in the same timeframe: Margaret Court in 1970, Martina Navratilova in 1983 and 1985, Steffi Graf in 1988 and 1989, Martina Hingis in 1997, Serena Williams in 2003, 2009 and 2010 and Amelie Mauresmo in 2006. So three examples pre-1988 to seven post-grass.

Curious fact: Bjorn Borg emerged the victor in five out of six consecutive Wimbledon final appearances from 1976 to 1981, but chose to make the journey to the Australian Open only once, in 1974, where he lost in the third round. Consider how many more Grand Slam titles he might have accrued had he ventured to the southern hemisphere.

When it comes to considering Australian citizens who have been crowned Wimbledon singles champion, the ‘golden era’ was late 1960s to early 1970s. Was this because it that period represents the halcyon days for Australian tennis or because of the Aussie contingent’s national familiarity with grass?

In the men’s game, for example, Rod Laver won in 1968 and 1969, John Newcombe in 1970 and 1971, Pat Cash in 1987, and Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. On seven occasions, Australians finished runners-up: Tony Roche in 1968, John Newcombe in 1969, Ken Rosewall in 1970 and 1974, Pat Rafter in 2000 and 2001, and Mark Philippoussis in 2003.

Centre Court thus staged all-Aussie finals in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Only two Australian women have won Wimbledon in the Open era: Margaret Court in 1970, followed by Evonne Goolagong in 1971 and 1980, though Judy Tegart Dalton claimed the runners-up spot in 1968, and Court (once) and Goolagong (thrice) experienced defeat in a Wimbledon final.

Curious fact No 2: No Australian woman has reached a Wimbledon final in 31+ years – since Goolagong's defeat of Chris Evert in 1980.

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