Early Australian Open History

The Australasian Tennis Championship were first held in 1905 at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, in the same city that it was destined to return to for good. It was originally organised by the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia, which has since been renamed to Tennis Australia. After a brief break during the First World War, the women’s singles tournament was added in 1922 and the competition was renamed the Australian Championships in 1927.

Rod Laver For the first half century of play the Championships toured Australia, visiting various states over the years. The sixties were a golden age for Australian tennis with Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Margaret Smith winning sixteen of a possible twenty men’s and women’s title s between them. Margaret Smith (later Court) went on to win eleven Australian titles in all.

The Early Years of the Australian Open

In 1969 the Open era was born and the event’s name changed again to the Australian Open. By 1972, the authorities decided that the Australian Open deserved a settled home, and the honour fell to the city that had attracted the greatest patronage – Melbourne. So the competition stayed at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club for the next sixteen years.

Traditionally, the tournament had been held in January. In 1977, it was moved to December, which resulted in there being two tournaments that year. This lasted until 1987 when the event moved back to January, meaning that there was no tournament in 1986.

Chris Evert In the 1980’s the event had outgrown Kooyong and so the government constructed the multi-purpose Flinders Park, which first hosted the Open in 1988. The eighties saw European dominance in the men’s event from Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg. The ladies’ game saw thrilling clashes between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert who won three and two titles each respectively.

In 1996 the venue was expanded and renamed Melbourne Park. Since the early nineties, the balance of power in the men’s competition has moved to America, with seven titles from shared between Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Americans continued to take many of the ladies’ titles, with Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and most recently Jennifer Capriati lifting the trophy. In 2000 the centre court was christened The Rod Laver Arena in honour of Australia’s tennis hero.

The Australian Open is perhaps the most adaptive of the Grand Slams, and as it enters its second century there are sure to be many new additions and memories created at one of the world’s most special sporting events.