Looking back at the last 5 male players to have lifted the Australian Open title
The Australian Open has been the first Grand Slam event on the tennis calendar, apart from a brief period between 1977 and 1985. The year 1977 had two Australian Open tournaments, one in January and the other in December, owing to a scheduling change.
After 17 consecutive Open Era editions (1970 to 1985) on grass, the tournament transitioned to hardcourt upon shifting to the Melbourne Park Arena in 1987. Owing to another schedule change, the 1986 edition of the Australian Open - which would have been the last Grand Slam tournament of the season - was instead played as the first one of the 1987 season.
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The inaugural Open era edition of the tournament had just 48 players in the draw. The number subsequently increased to 50 in 1972, 56 in 1973 and then to 128 in 1974 (won by Ken Rosewall).
The Australian Open was a 64-player draw from 1975 to 1982. Each of the editions from 1983 to 1985 had 96 players in the draw, before the tournament became a 128-player affair in 1987.
26 different players have lifted the Australian Open since the tournament first opened to professionals in 1969. On that note, let us have a look at the last 5 players to have lifted the title at the first Grand Slam tournament on the ATP calendar.
#5 Stan Wawrinka (2014)
Making his 9th consecutive appearance at the Australian Open, Stan Wawrinka dethroned three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic 9-7 in a 5-set quarterfinal, a year after losing 10-12 in the fifth set of a fourth round clash with the same player.
It was Wawrinka's maiden foray past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam in his fourth attempt, three years after being denied in his first Major quarterfinal at the same tournament. The 'other Swiss' downed Tomas Berdych in a four-set semifinal featuring three tiebreaks, to book a title showdown with 2009 champion Rafael Nadal.
Wawrinka had failed to take a set off Nadal in the pair's 12 previous tour meetings, but that was to change on a memorable night for the 28-year-old. Wawrinka blasted his single-handed backhand to devastating effect; Nadal's baseline game was severely punctured in a brutal onslaught from the inspired Swiss.
Having won just five games in the first two sets, an injury to Nadal seemed like a precursor to a swift ending. The Spaniard was not about to give up though; not in a Slam final. Severely hindered in his movement, Nadal found a way to steal the third set as Rod Laver Arena provided a rousing ovation.
But that would be as good as it got for Nadal on the day. Wawrinka re-asserted his ascendancy in the fourth set to become the 26th different player to win the Australian Open and the 53rd to lift a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.