The Australian Open was the last of the four Grand Slam tournaments to permit women to compete. The first Australian Open women's singles event was held in the year 1922.
In the early days, the tournament didn't elicit great response from the world's best, drawing in only a small pool of players most of whom came from either Australia or New Zealand. But as the years passed by, just as the men's field started seeing increased participation, the women's game was not to be left far behind.
Back in the day, women's singles matches were played in a best of 5 format. The Australian Open was the second Slam after the US Open to bring about pay parity among Men and Women competitors.
The winner of the Australian Open Women's Singles trophy is presented a replica of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy. The naming of the trophy is a tribute to Australian tennis great Daphne Akhurst, who won the event on five occasions.
Some tennis greats have won titles all around the world, but have never won the Australian Open - despite coming ever so close. Here, we take a look at 4 such players:
# Venus Williams
Venus Williams is the only player in tennis history - be it among Men or Women - to win Olympic medals in 4 different Summer Olympic Games. The big-serving American has been an evergreen presence on the WTA charts for more than 20 years.
The elder of the Williams sisters, Venus has won 7 Grand Slam Singles titles, 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles, 2 Mixed Doubles titles and 5 Olympic medals, of which 4 are Gold.
Her longevity in tennis has enabled her to rake up $40,931,048 in prize money earnings till date - the second most of all time, trailing only her younger sister Serena.
Venus has twice been to the final of the Australian Open - in 2003 and the latest in 2017. On both these occasions, she was runner-up to Serena.
In fact, apart from the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam missing in Venus' trophy cabinet is the French Open, where again her attempt to win the title was thwarted by Serena in 2002.
#3 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
One of the most famous female tennis athletes from Spain, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario was a complete tennis player - winning titles across all three categories of the sport. In her 17-year trophy laden career, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario won 4 Grand Slam Singles titles, 6 Doubles titles and 4 Mixed Doubles titles.
Nicknamed "The Barcelona bumblebee", Sanchez Vicario was known for her remarkable ability to put the ball across the net and force opponents to always come up with that extra shot or two.
She holds the record for most wins at the Fed Cup with 72, and is Spain's all-time greatest medal winner at the Olympic Games with four medals - two silver and two bronze.
Sanchez Vicario came agonizingly close to winning Wimbledon and the Australian Open, finishing as runner-up twice at both these events. In Melbourne, after remarkable runs to the final in 1994 and 1995, she was undone by Steffi Graf and Mary Pierce respectively at the ultimate hurdle.
Sanchez Vicario, however, won the Australian Open Doubles title thrice and the Mixed Doubles tittle once.
#2 Maria Esther Bueno
The greatest female tennis player from South America, Maria Esther Bueno was one of the top players in the late 1950's and 1960's.
Bueno was the year-end number-one ranked female player in 1959 and 1960. An incredible serve and volley player, she packed a powerful game and could hit her opponents off the court.
Bueno is the first non American woman to win both the Wimbledon and US Open Championships in the same year.
Another remarkable stat pertaining to her tennis career is that she was the first ever woman to win the 'Calendar Grand Slam' in Doubles category. She achieved this feat in 1960.
Having won Wimbledon thrice and the US Open on four different occasions, Bueno was desperately unlucky to have not won the other two Grand Slam titles. In the final of the 1965 Australian Open, Bueno took the first set against Margaret Court Smith but got injured during the match and was forced to retire midway.
#1 Althea Gibson
The most prominent black player to compete on the women's professional tennis circuit in the 1960s was American Althea Gibson. At a time when racism and prejudice were widespread in sports and in society, Gibson achieved tremendous success and is an inspiration to many youngsters even today.
"Her road to success was a challenging one," said fellow American tennis great Billie Jean King about Gibson's career. Venus Williams and Serena Williams have often spoken about the kind of impact Gibson's success had on their own careers early on.
Gibson was a five-time Grand Slam Singles champion, winning Wimbledon and the US Open twice each and the French Open once. If Gibson had won the Australian Open, she would have become the fourth woman at the time to complete the Career Slam.
However, her best performance at the Australian Open came in 1957 where she was runner-up to fellow American Shirley Fry.