Australian Open History
Nicknamed "the happy slam” and often referred to as the "Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific" the Australian Open is the highest attended Grand Slam event, with more than 812,000 people attending the 2020 tournament. With so much fanfare, the first Grand Slam of the year holds a special place in the hearts of tennis fans around the world, and with it comes a rich tennis history that stacks up against any of the other three Grand Slams.
The Australian Open started when six Australian state tennis affiliations and the governing body of the game in New Zealand agreed to form the Lawn Tennis Association of Australasia in the year of 1904. In 1905 a tournament was created named The Australasian Men's Championships. At the time, the tournament was only open to male players, with women joining the field in 1922. The tournament was held at the Albert Reserve in Melbourne, on the grass lawns of the Warehouseman's Cricket Club. That’s right, one of the game’s most prestigious tournaments began on a cricket club lawn - humble beginnings indeed. In fact, the Open has been played on four different surfaces: Grass (1905–1987), Rebound Ace (a type of hard court, 1988–2007) , Plexicushion (a faster type of hard court, (2008–2020), & and blue GreenSet (2020 - present).
Since 1905, the Australian Open has been staged in five Australian cities: Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, and two New Zealand cities: Christchurch and Hastings. It remains the only Grand Slam to ever be held in two countries - I told you this tournament comes with a rich history!
Though started in 1905, the tournament was not designated a major championship until 1924, when it was deemed one by the International Lawn Tennis Federation at a 1923 meeting.
And, because of Australia's geographic remoteness, very few foreign players entered the tournament in the early 20th century - the trip by ship from Europe to Australia took about 45 days. Heck, even inside the country, many players could not travel easily due to Australia's vast size and lack of sufficient transportation. In fact, the first tennis players who came by boats were the US Davis Cup players in November 1946.
The Australian Open is also known as the last Slam to allow professional players to be in the field. That precedent was broken in 1969. However, many of the top players did not join the field until the early 80’s, as the Australian Open was thought to be a lesser tournament due to its low prize money, geographic remoteness, and the fact it took place over the holidays.
In 1988, the Australian Open officially moved to a new $94 million tennis center called Flinders Park - which in 1996 was re-named to Melbourne Park by the Victorian Government).
1988 attendance 266,436
2018 attendance 728,763
The state of the art tennis center was an immediate hit with players and fans alike, and earned rave reviews from the Australian media.
“The National Tennis Centre is a triumph,” wrote The Age journalist Tim Colebatch on January 12, 1988.
And with a new court finalized, the Australian Open also finalized the annual mid-January date for the tournament - as it had previously been played on different dates throughout the tournament’s history.
Since its inception The “Happy Slam” has played home to some of tennis’s biggest icons, from Artur Ashe and Rodger Federer to Serena Williams and Namoi Osaka. As well as to some of tennis’s best matches ever - check out our Top 5 Matches in Australian Open History here.
We look for this iconic tournament to create even more history, maybe some will be written in this year’s tournament.