Though the Australian Open started in 1905, it was only 19 years later that the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) recognised it as a major tournament.
During its 105 editions of competition, the Australian Open has been hosted in seven different cities. Melbourne has been hosting the Australian Open since 1972, with the tournament being held at its current home of Melbourne Park since 1988.
In 1969, the Australian Open became the fourth Grand Slam tournament that allowed professional players to compete. The Australian Open was played on grass till 1986 before it transitioned to hardcourt in 1988.
There was no edition of the competition in 1987 as the tournament was rescheduled from its December slot to January. Interestingly, there were two Australian Open tournaments in 1977 as the tournament was shifted from January to December.
Due to its geographical remoteness and its scheduling during the Christmas - New Year holiday period, very few top players visited the Australian Open till the early 1980s.
Today, however, the Australian Open has the highest attendance figures of any other Grand Slam tournament, with the 2020 edition of the competition drawing in a record-812174 fans.
Only eight players participated at the 1906 Australian Open in Christchurch. From 1988 onwards, the Australian Open has featured a 128-player men's singles draw.
Out of 60 different players to have won the Australian Open, 24 of them have done so exclusively in the Open Era.
Since the start of the Open Era, the average age (26 years) of the men's singles champion is the highest among all the four Grand Slam tournaments on the tennis calendar. During this period, 11 Australian Open titles have been won by a player over the age of 30, with four players doing so twice.
On that note, let's take a look at five of the oldest Australian Open men's winners in tournament history.
Five oldest Australian Open men's singles winners:
#5: Andre Agassi (32 years, 272 days) in 2003
Andre Agassi is a four-time Australian Open champion.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Agassi triumphed on his first appearance at the Australian Open in 1995. Following a semifinal loss the next year to Michael Chang, Agassi endured fourth round losses in 1998 and 1999 before lifting the 2000-01 Australian Open titles.
After missing the 2002 edition of the tournament, Agassi started his seventh appearance at the Australian Open with respective straight-set wins over Brian Vahaly and Lee-Hyung Taik. He dropped his only set of the tournament in the third round against Nicolas Escude.
A retirement win over Guillermo Coria was followed by straight-set wins over Sebastien Grosjean and Wayne Ferreira as Agassi reached his fourth Australian Open final where German Rainer Schuettler lay in wait.
In a lopsided title match, Agassi beat Schuettler 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to win his fourth Australian Open title. As it turned out, it was also the last of his eight Grand Slam titles.
The five games dropped by Agassi are the joint fewest dropped by an Australian Open men's singles winner in the final. John Hawkes also dropped five games against James Willard in the 1926 title match as did Pat O'Hara Wood against Bert St. John in the 1923 final.
At the age of 32 years and 272 days, Agassi became the fifth oldest player to win the men's singles title at the Australian Open, in the process becoming the oldest top-ranked player in the world.
#4: Norman Brookes (34 years, 11 days) in 1911
The name Norman Brookes is brought up many times during the course of the fortnight in which the Australian Open is held each year. It is due to the fact that the Australian Open men's singles trophy is named after the great Australian.
Norman Brookes was the first global tennis superstar and the first of many mega tennis stars from Australia. Brookes in 1907 became the first overseas player as well as the first ever lefthanded player to win the Wimbledon Championships.
In his only appearance at the Australian Open in Melbourne in 1911, Brookes beat the previous year's losing finalist Horace Rice 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to win the second of three Grand Slam singles titles.
At the age of 34 years and 11 days, Brookes became the second oldest men's singles player to win the Australian Open title. Interestingly, Brookes also holds the record for being the oldest ever Doubles winner at the Australian Open when he triumphed in 1924 at the age of 47.
Brookes storied career saw him win three Grand Slam Singles titles, four Grand Slam Doubles titles and five Davis Cup titles.
An able tennis administrator post his retirement, Brookes played a pivotal role in popularising the Australian Open as President of the Australian Tennis Association from 1926-1955.
#3 Horace Rice (34 years, 353 days) in 1907
Horace Rice won his first and only Australian Open title in 1907 at the age of 34 years and 353 days.
In a 20-player draw in that edition of the tournament, Rice dropped only one game in the second round before dropping a set apiece in the quarterfinal and semifinal.
Rice beat New Zealand's Harry Parker in straight sets in the final to emulate Rodney Heath as the only Australians to win the Australian Open men's singles title.
The lefthander remained the oldest player to win the singles title at the Australian Open for six and a half decades before another compatriot would surpass him for that honour.
Incidentally, in the 1915 edition of the competition, a 42-year-old Rice became the oldest ever-player male player to compete in a Singles Grand Slam final - a record he holds to this date.
At the 1923 Australian Open, Rice won the Mixed Doubles title with Sylvia Lance Harper. The triumph at the age of 50 years and 347 days made Rice the oldest male winner of a Grand Slam title across categories, a record that still stands after almost a century.
#2: Roger Federer (36 years, 173 days) in 2018
The Australian Open has always been a happy hunting ground for the legendary Roger Federer. The Swiss ace has lifted the Norman Brookes trophy on six occasions, which is only surpassed by Novak Djokovic in the all-time list.
At the 2017 Australian Open, Federer broke his four-and-a-half-year Grand Slam drought with a five-set win over his arch-rival and good friend Rafael Nadal. It was Federer's sixth title match at the Australian Open and first in seven years.
Federer returned in 2018 and produced another title run at the Australian Open, dropping his only sets of the tournament in his five-set win over Marin Cilic in the final.
The then 36-year-old regrouped after losing his first set of the tournament to take a commanding two sets to one lead against the Croatian opponent who lost to Federer in straight sets in the 2017 Wimbledon final.
When Federer broke Cilic early in the fourth, a swift end was in sight. But the 2014 US Open winner caught fire and reeled off five games in a row to force a fifth set. However, the Swiss legend managed to quell the challenge of his inspired opponent to lift his sixth Australian Open title.
In the process, the 36-year-old Federer became the second oldest player in the Open Era to successfully defend a men's singles title. In the process, the Swiss also became the second oldest player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
The 2018 Melbourne triumph is Roger Federer's 20th and most recent Grand Slam title.
#1 Ken Rosewall (37years, 62 days) in 1972
Ken Rosewall is one of two players to have won the Australian Open men's singles title in both the amateur and Open eras.
In the 1972 edition of the tournament, then 37-year-old Rosewall dropped his only set of the tournament against Allan Stone in the semifinals. The Australian then beat another compatriot, Malcom Anderson, in straight-sets to become the oldest Grand Slam singles winner in the Open Era.
With that triumph coming 19 years after his first win at the tournament, Rosewall created a new record for successive wins at a Grand Slam. It is a record that is likely to remain unbroken for a very long time.
Rosewall continued to rewrite history books when he made the finals at Wimbledon and US Open in 1974 at the ripe age of 39. Though he was beaten on both occasions by Jimmy Connors, Rosewall remains the oldest Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era. Such was Rosewall's prowess that he was ranked world number two in 1975 at the age of 40.Published 18 Jul 2020, 21:15 IST