10 unique facts about 50 Open Era editions of the Australian Open
The Australian Open, played on hard court in Melbourne, starting on the third Monday of January is the first Grand Slam event of the calendar. But it hasn't always been this way. The tournament was played on grass till 1987 before shifting to hard court in 1988. Due to a scheduling change in the late 70s, the Australian Open was actually the last Grand Slam event on the tennis calendar for almost a decade (1977 to 1985).
Due to the general geographic remoteness of Australia, low prize money, and the event starting too close to the Christmas/New Year holiday period, many top players used to skip the tournament till 1982.
The 2019 edition of the Australian Open was the 50th edition of the tournament since tennis opened its doors to professionals in the summer of 1968. Novak Djokovic (7 titles), and Roger Federer (6 titles) are the two most successful players in the tournament, with each player featuring in the most number of Australian Open finals (7 apiece). On that note, let us have a look at 10 unique facts about 50 editions of the Australian Open held in the Open Era.
# 1: Last Grand Slam tournament to open its doors to professionals
Although tennis went professional in the summer of 1968, the 1968 edition of the Australian Open was not open for professionals. The 1968 French Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the Open Era, followed by Wimbledon and US Open in that same year.The Australian Open is the last of the four Grand Slam tournaments to welcome professional players when it did so in 1969.
# 2: Only Grand Slam tournament to be played in more than one city
The Australian Open is the only Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era to be held in more than one city. The first Open Era Australian Open was held in 1969 in Brisbane. A year later, the tournament was held in Sydney where it stood for two years before the event was relocated to Melbourne in 1972 where it has stayed ever since.
# 3: Only Grand Slam tournament to be held twice in one year
Due to a scheduling change, the Australian Open became the fourth Grand Slam tournament on the tennis calendar from 1977. Owing to the same, the year 1977 had 2 Australian Open tournaments played - one in January and the other in December. This makes the Australian Open the only Grand Slam tournament to held twice in one year.
# 4: Second Grand Slam tournament to be played on 2 different surfaces
Till 1985, the Australian Open was held on grass. Following a change of surface, the 1987 Australian Open was played on hard court. This made the Australian Open the only Grand Slam tournament after the US Open (1969-1974: grass; 1975-1977: clay; 1978 onwards: hard court) to be played on more than two different surfaces in the Open Era.
# 5: Mats Wilander is the only men's singles Australian Open winner on both grass and hard court
Mats Wilander (1983, 1984 - grass and 1988 - hard court) is the only male single's player to win the Australian Open on both grass and hard court.
# 6: First Grand Slam tournament to feature a rectractable roof
In 1988, the Rod Laver Arena was equipped with a rectractable roof to be closed in the event of wet weather or extreme heat, making it the first Grand Slam tournament to feature a rectractable roof. Wimbledon first employed a rectractable roof (Centre Court) in 2009 while the US Open employed one for the first time in 2016 (Arthur Ashe stadium).
# 7: First Grand Slam tournament to witness 27 different men's singles champions
Both the Australian Open and the French Open have featured 27 different male single's players to have lifted the title at each tournament. However, the Australian Open was the first to witness its 27th different winner in the Open Era when Stanislas Wawrinka beat 2009 winner Rafael Nadal in a four-set final. Novak Djokovic (2016) is the 27th different men's single's winner at the French Open.
# 8: First Grand Slam after the US Open to employ a fifth-set tie-break
In 1970, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to feature a fifth-set tiebreak. Almost four decades later, two more Grand Slam tournaments followed suit. The Australian Open was the first to do so in 2019 with the introduction of a fifth-set tiebreak at six games all. However, unlike a conventional tiebreak (first to 7 points with a difference of 2), the fifth set tiebreak at the Australian Open is the first to ten points with a difference of 2.
# 9: Lowest number of five-set finals of all 4 Grand Slam tournaments
There have been 7 men's singles finals at the Australian Open in the Open Era which have gone the distance, the two most recent being Roger Federer's respective wins over Rafael Nadal and Marin Čilić in 2017 and 2018. The corresponding numbers at the French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open are 8, 16, and 9 respectively.
# 10: Lowest ranked Grand Slam winner
212-ranked Mark Edmondson became the lowest ranked player to win a Grand Slam when the Australian beat compatriot and defending champion John Newcombe in a four-set final at the 1976 Australian Open.