50 Years Of History; 2019 Is The Golden Jubilee Of The Australian Open
The Australian Open 2019 is the 50th edition of the antipodean tennis Grand Slam. Half a century deserves a little celebration and a reflection on this tournament’s glorious history.
The Australian Open sets off the tennis season with a bang and many pundits and players consider it the finest major of the year.
There’s always a huge buzz around the Australian Open simply because it is traditionally the first major of the season. And this year it’s an extra special even because 2019 is the golden jubilee year.
Melbourne Park has become an iconic venue in the tennis world and some of the greatest names of the game have been responsible for the event’s most memorable moments.
Origins of the Australian Open
First staged in the final year of the swinging sixties, the Australian Open is actually the current incarnation of a much older tournament. Originating in 1905, the event was originally known as the Australasian Championships before becoming the Australian Championships in 1927.
Early editions of the tournament suffered a little from Australia’s geographic remoteness. With the journey from Europe by ocean taking six weeks, few foreign stars made the journey and the Australian Open wasn’t designated as a major tournament until 1924.
Originally the event was held on a grass court and the Australian Open only switched to a hard court in 1988. Mats Wilander holds the distinction of being the only player to have won the event on both surfaces. The Swede won the tournament three times in the 1980s and reached a trio of consecutive finals between 1983 and 1985.
The Australian Open is notable for its January berth in the sporting calendar but it has been held in March, August and December during its history. The tournament’s status as the first major of the season was established in 1977.
The Explosion of the Open Era
Right up until the 1970s and 80s, the Australian Open suffered a little in terms of prestige compared with Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open. But many consider the renaissance of the event since the Open era began as being a true “worst to first” rebirth.
The Open era launched with professional players being allowed to enter the newly renamed Australian Open in 1969. But it would still take a while for the world’s best to take the tournament to their hearts.
The National Tennis League, then the organised tour for professionals, initially barred its stars from attending the refreshed tournament because the prize money was considered insufficient for most of its players to travel to the other side of the globe.
In 1983, the tournament really established itself on the world stage when three of the biggest names in the game chose to enter. Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander made their bows at the then-venue, the Kooyong stadium in central Melbourne.
Australian Open - The Move to Melbourne Park
A year later, the International Tennis Federation prompted the tournament’s organisers to consider moving to a larger venue. Flinders Park was chosen as the new home of the Australian Open and a state-of-the-art tennis and entertainment facility was completed and opened in 1988.
The complex was renamed Melbourne Park in 1996 and many still consider the venue as the best in world tennis. The venue has three state-of-the-art stadia with retractable roofs and one of the finest array of crossover attractions in the sporting calendar. The new home transformed the Australian Open and many of the game’s best players still claim the event is their favourite major.
Memorable Players and Games of the Australian Open
It’s a quirk of the Australian Open’s history that Bjorn Borg only ever appeared once, Jimmy Connors made just two appearances and John McEnroe only ever made a handful of tournaments and only once when he was in his absolute pomp in the late 70s and early 80s.
But a special mention has to go to McEnroe for his 1990 outing when the fiery American became the first player to be disqualified from a major in 30 years after an epic meltdown aimed at the umpire in a fourth-round match. Despite his legendary reputation for losing his cool, it was the only time McEnroe was defaulted from a tour event.
Certainly, the best of the Australian Open belongs to the current crop of tennis greats along with the previous generation who dominated the game. Andre Agassi and Jim Courier benefited greatly from the resurgence of the tournament, with multiple wins in the 1990s.
Novak Djokovic has won six of his 14 Grand Slams in Melbourne while Serena Williams has won seven. Many credit the Australian Open as providing a suitable stage for the great rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to flourish and the move to January transformed the tennis season, kicking it off with a bang.
Djokovic, Federer and Nadal will once again be favourites in the men’s event for Australian Open 2019 betting while Serena Williams will be at the top of the women’s Australian Open 2019 odds. But we may yet see a changing of the guard with a new generation snapping at the current elite.
*All odds from Bet UK’s online sportsbook correct at the time of writing.
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