Historically held in the final two weeks of January, the Australian Open is a tennis tournament like no other. From the 16th – 29th January 2017, Melbourne will play host to the 105th Open. It will see defending champions Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber attempt to retain their titles. With prestige and a cash prize of A$3.7m for each title up for grabs, the stakes have never been higher. Originally known as the Australasian Championships, its name was changed in 1969 to the Australian Open. It didn’t have a permanent home until 3 decades ago, instead it moved around each year, even being held in New Zealand. The Australian Open is the first of the four Grand Slams that are held throughout the year, the others being the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. It features men’s and women’s singles; men’s, women’s and mixed doubles and junior’s championships; as well as wheelchair, legends and exhibition events.
The Australian Open is notoriously tough, not least because of the heat. Melbourne in January is renowned for its scorching temperatures: day time temperatures can reach 45oC. For that fact alone, the Open is the only tournament on the calendar to feature an Extreme Heat Policy. The Extreme Heat Policy was introduced in 1998 and allows umpires to suspend games if they believe the temperature is too hot. In 2007 temperatures were so high that several players had to be placed on IV drips in order to cope with the hot conditions.
Whilst the players slog it out on court, the supporters have a few options to try and keep cool, providing visitors with an excellent opportunity to experience such an elite sporting event but with a uniquely Australian twist… Fans are known to not only dress up in their country’s colours, but to also sport war paint! Some words of warning: expect to be a part of a large crowd. The Australian Open has attendance figures second only to the US Open – the Australians take their sport very seriously!
Even though the Australian Open began life in 1905, it didn’t feature any international players until 1946, due to the difficulty involved in international travel. To put it into perspective, in the 1920s the ship to Australia from Europe took 45 days. That hasn’t stopped some of the greats from making up for lost time ever since. The tournament has witnessed many male tennis legends including Kenneth Robert Rosewall, Roy Stanley Emerson, Mats Wilander, Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadar, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Ranked among the female legends are Margaret Smith, Nancy Wynne Bolton, Steffi Graf, Evonne Goolagong, Thelma Coyne and Martina Hingis. Martina incidentally was part of the winning Women’s Doubles team last year. It was her twelfth Grand Slam women’s doubles title and her fifth at the Australian Open. She is still the youngest woman to win the game at the tender age of just 16.
For Novak Djokovic, the winner of the Men’s Singles in 2016, it was his eleventh Major Singles title and his sixth at the Australian Open. For the Women’s Singles champion, Angelique Kerber, it was her first Grand Slam singles title.
Who knows who will take the titles in 2017, it’s all to play for.