Tennis is one of the most popular sports today, so it is no surprise that there are four massive international tennis tournaments every year, with the Australian Open being one of them. The other three international tennis tournaments held yearly are the U.S Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon, with the Australian Open being the oldest of the four. As a result, every year, players and avid tennis fans worldwide travel to Down Under to enjoy one of the best international events in sports.
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The Origin of the Australian Open
The tournament began in 1905 and was held in Melbourne at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground. It wasn’t originally planned to become a massive international tournament, but in 1923 a meeting was held, and the International Lawn Tennis Federation decided that this would be a worldwide event. Initially, the Australian Open was known as the Australasian Championships. Then in 1927, the name changed to Australian Championships. Because of Australia’s location, the championship didn’t lure players from other countries until 1946. That year marked the first time that foreign players would attend the event. Before then, it was common for local players to skip the event because of the country’s size and players not wanting to spend days traveling to the event. Luckily, as transportation improved locally and globally, attendees grew as local and foreign players started to join the event. Not much later, by 1960, Australia had the most world-class tennis players and proved itself to be a true competitor in the world of tennis.
The most outstanding Australian players were Margaret Smith Court, Roy Emerson, and Rod Laver. It was only in 1969 that the name changed to the Australian Open. Although the Australian Open has exclusivity to Australia, it has been held outside of Australia in the past. On two separate occasions, New Zealand hosted the Australian Open tournaments. Originally there were matches played in various cities, including Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. However, later on, it was decided that the tournament would only take place in Melbourne. This was because of the four cities where matches were held; Melbourne consistently attracted the most significant fans. The tournament proved to be extremely popular, with more than 140,000 people attending games in 1972. In 1988, the tournament was moved to Melbourne Park, and the international event immediately saw an incredible jump in attendance of 90%. The tournament was always held in January until there was a shift in 1977, resulting in two championships being held that year. After that, the tournament was moved to December and remained that way until 1987, when it was moved back to January, and it is still taking place in January today.
The Australian Open used grass courts until 1988, when it was changed to blue hard courts. Since then, these blue hard courts have become the Australian Open’s signature.
Melbourne Park’s venues
Greenset Worldwide prepared the gorgeous and iconic hard courts that the Australian Open is played on. It is an acrylic layered hard court. Before 2008, the tournament used Rebound Ace hard courts.
Melbourne Park has 39 courts, with 33 being hard courts and the remaining six being clay courts.
The Rod Laver Arena can host up to 15,000 spectators. The Margaret Court Arena is much smaller, comfortably hosting up to 7,500 spectators. It has an opening roof which is impressively one of the fastest globally, opening in less than five minutes. The Melbourne Arena was initially called the Hisense Arena, and it opened in 2000. It is pretty versatile since it can easily be transformed into a velodrome for cycling. It can hold up to 9646 spectators. There are two show courts in Melbourne pack, respectfully hosting 3000 spectators each.
The redevelopment of Melbourne Park
The venue started an extravagant upgrade in 2010, with the date of completion being set for the Australian Open in 2015. The cost was estimated to be around 336 million dollars. The upgrades included a massive uplift of the Margaret Court Arena and the Western Precinct, both receiving a retractable roof and additional seating that could accommodate an extra 1,500 spectators. There would be 13 outdoor courts and eight indoor courts suitable for training while the players wait for their matches. There is also a player facilities room, change rooms, and a gymnasium. With so many people streaming into the park every year, an additional parking area was added to fit 1,000 cars and at least 28 buses. The Rod Laver Arena received new and improved entry stairs. At the same time, there were improvements made to the connecting areas between the Rod Laver Arena, Show Court 2, and the Margaret Court Arena. Lastly, facilities were included that could harvest rainwater.
In 2014 further renovations started with the deadline of completion being set in time for the Australian Open 2020. The cost of these renovations was estimated to be 338 million dollars. The focus of the second set of renovations was to facilitate administration and broadcasting better since the tournament continued to grow in popularity and numbers. Much work was also done to improve the pedestrian walkways since they could become very crowded during the Australian Open.
The redevelopment and renovations done to Melbourne Park is a testament that Australia takes the Australian Open very seriously and would do whatever it takes to keep the phenomenal event’s standard high.
Australian Open records
All four of the international tennis tournaments have tennis players who won the title several times consecutively. The Australian Open was won by Novak Djokovic six times, making him an iconic player in the championship. Roy Stanley Emerson has also won the Australian Open six times, with the first title in 1963. Melbourne Park’s main stadium and the central court were named after Rod Laver. He was a Grand Slam legend taking eleven titles during his career.
The Australian Open’s structure
The tournament has a very straightforward structure that works on seedings and qualifications. When the event starts, the singles’ qualifications are always first. This is followed by the singles’ games’ first rounds. Then the tournament moves on to the knockout stages, which will lead to the quarter-finals. During this time, the event also hosts doubles’ games. The semi-finals of the singles’ games commence by Friday, and Sunday is the grand slam final event. The first final game in the Australian Open is the doubles’ women, followed by the doubles’ men. Then on the final weekend, the singles’ women’s final is held on Saturday, with the singles’ men’s final held on Sunday. The last final of the Australian Open is the mixed doubles. The most popular match of the tournament is the singles’ men’s final, with the game selling out within minutes every year.
The Australian Open’s Most Memorable Moments
The 2009 final
Fans were brought to tears and compassion for Federer as the superstar broke down in tears when he received his runner-up trophy. The final between Nadal and Federer had been a nail-biting match, with Nadal taking the title. Although these two were rivals on the courts, Nadal moved towards Federer and gave the emotional player a hug resulting in great applause from the crowd.
The 2009 semi-final
Nadal and Verdasco gave spectators an exciting game that is still remembered today as the two athletes competed for 5 hours and 14 minutes, with Nadal taking the win.
The 1995 quarter-final
This match stood out because of the heart and emotion it showed in both players. Pete Sampras had a challenging game crying several times during the match. At one point, fans feared that he had given up. He seemed so exhausted and emotional that Courier asked if they could complete the game the following day. However, Sampras overcame his fatigue and emotions, taking the win eventually.
This match between Roddick and El Aynaoui became memorable, with the final set being longer than the first four sets combined. The final set lasted two hours and 23 minutes, with Roddick finally taking the win.
McEnroe’s disqualification in 1990
John McEnroe was known to be controversial on the court, often receiving warnings because of his misconduct. This match against Pernfors was no exception, with McEnroe shouting at fans and the chair umpire. He was also called out for racket abuse. Eventually, Gerry Armstrong, the chair umpire, ended the match by disqualifying McEnroe from the tournament.
The 2005 semi-final
Safin and Federer faced each other in the 2005 semi-final, and they kept fans on the edge of their seats for 4 hours and 25 minutes. It was clear that both players wanted the win, and they were willing to give it their all. However, it was Safin who took the win after a grueling match.
The 2006 semi-final
Baghdatis and Nalbandian faced each other in this thrilling match that lasted for several hours before the skies opened. However, since it was raining quite heavily, the match had to be stopped and was continued after that rain stopped with Baghdatis taking the win.
Thanks to the Australian Open, Australia is a gorgeous place with beautiful scenery, great adventures, and outstanding tennis.