The Australian Open is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. Read on to learn everything there is to know about the first Grand Slam Tournament of the year, the Australian Open.
The Australian Open
The Australian Open is a tennis tournament held annually in Melbourne, Australia, at the end of January, during the height of the Australian summer. Together with the French Open, the US Open and the Wimbledon Championships, the Australian Open belongs to the Grand Slam tournaments. These four tennis tournaments, also called Majors, offer more prize money besides the chance to earn more rankings points (2,000 for the winner) than at the other tournaments of the season.
It can be challenging for those unfamiliar with tennis to keep up with big events like a Grand Slam. Fortunately, this easy-to-read Australian Open guide has everything you need to know to look and sound like a tennis expert.
What Exactly Is the Australian Open?
The Australian Open (also called Aussie Open) is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year and lasts two weeks. It traditionally takes place in January in Melbourne at Melbourne Park, Australia (Down Under). There is a singles and a doubles competition for men and women as well as a mixed competition. There are also competitions for juniors and wheelchair players. While the women play best-of-three sets, the men compete in a best-of-five format. Women and men start in a 128-player field. Thus, the winner needs to win seven straight matches. In 2022, women and men received prize money of $2,875,000 each for winning the final.
The facility holds 20 hard courts on approximately 20 acres. The main courts with retractable roofs (Center Courts) are Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena. Then there are also the so-called Show Courts (starting with number 2)
The various Grand Slams are held on multiple playing surfaces. Like the US Open, the Australian Open is played on hard courts. However, unlike the US Open, the Australian court is made of cushioned rubber, also called Rebound-Ace, unlike the US Open’s acrylic-based hard court. In addition, the Australian Open courts are entirely blue, as opposed to Wimbledon’s green grass, Roland Garros’ red clay, and Flushing Meadows’ blue/green courts.
For many years, the Australian Open has also been called the “Happy Slam”, which indicates the rather relaxed atmosphere of the tournament. So, at the start of the Open Tour, things are still relaxed; the French Open is a bit more tense in comparison since the French are reluctant to speak English. The event in Wimbledon, London, also stands for tradition and etiquette. And the US Open is more characterized by noisy and hectic conditions. The Australian Open as a “Happy Slam” offers the most fun for tennis players and spectators.
The Australian Open typically subjects its players to extreme heat, exacerbated by the intense atmosphere created by the second-highest average attendance of any tennis Grand Slam (after the US Open). As a result, the tennis event in Melbourne Park features several courts with retractable roofs to allow play to continue in severe weather conditions (players can face temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius or 113 degrees Fahrenheit). The primary court is the Rod Laver Arena, which has a capacity of roughly 15,000 people.
Melbourne has hosted the Australian Open since 1972. Initially, the tournament found a home in Kooyong Stadium. When this stadium no longer offered enough seating for fans, the tournament organizers moved to the larger Flinders Park facility in 1988. The tennis surface changed with the move to Flinders Park – Melbourne Park in 1997. In 1988, the Australian Open was held for the first time on a hard court and no longer on grass. As a result, the Swede Mats Wilander is the only tennis player to have claimed the Australian Open title on both grass and hard courts.
The history of the Australian Open dates back to 1904, when Australia and New Zealand formed the Australian Lawn Tennis Association with two goals in mind: to participate in the popular Davis Cup and to host the Australian Championships. The first championship of this kind was held in 1905 on the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground lawn in Melbourne. A total of 17 men took part in the first tournament, which was later to make a name for itself as the Australian Open – the final already brought around 5,000 spectators to the stands.
For the next 16 years, the Association’s partners, New Zealand and Australia alternated in hosting the tournament. However, New Zealand dissolved the partnership in 1922, which meant that the tournament was only held in Australia. It took until 1972, however, before Melbourne was established as the permanent venue. According to the official chronicle, tennis competitions have been held twice in New Zealand, three times in Perth, eight times in Brisbane, 14 times in Adelaide and 17 times in Sydney. With the departure of New Zealand from the partnership, however, there was another novelty in 1922: women’s tennis found its way into the Grand Slam. Women’s doubles, women’s singles and a mixed competition were played. The latter was not played from 1970 to 1986.
In the 1960s, the world looked eagerly to Australia and the Australian Championships. Because two tennis players, namely the player Margaret Smith Court and the player Rod Laver, achieved record wins. Margaret Smith Court captured the singles title eleven times, won in doubles eight times and excelled in mixed play four times. Rod Laver achieved the Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969 (winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year); he also won the Australian Open singles title three times. From 1969 onwards, they were officially called the Australian Open – because it was only from that year that the games were no longer called Australian Championships but Australian Open. Since then, the name has been retained.
Throughout its history, the Australian Open has struggled with player attendance. Initially, it faced stiff competition from other regional tennis tournaments, which drew players away. However, the tournament’s remote location became a problem as the tournament’s international status grew, with many of the world’s top players unwilling to make the long trip to Australia.
The tournament’s dates have varied throughout its long history. Still, in 1987, it was decided to move the tournament to January, which has remained ever since. Though New South Wales attempted to relocate the Australian Open at the end of its contract with Melbourne in 2008, commitments to expand and improve Melbourne Park were approved. As a result, the tournament will remain there until at least 2036.
Australian Open Records
As with the past Grand Slams, some players fare better than others. Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic hold the most Australian Open titles. Emerson won the competition six times in the Amateur Era.
Novak Djokovic has the record for most men’s singles titles with nine in the Open Era, the most recent in 2021.
No one can match Margaret Court’s record at the Australian Open. Court is still the Grand Slam singles champion with 24 trophies, 11 of which she won at the Australian Open.
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- Founded: 1905
- Location: Melbourne, Australia (since 1972)
- Venue: Melbourne Park (since 1988)
- Surface: Hard-Court (since 1988)
- Ball Brand: Dunlop
- Prize Money: $75,000,000 (2022)
- Sponsors: Kia, Rolex, Luzhou Laojiao, Emirates, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Bondi Sands, Ueber Eats, Mastercard