Following in the footsteps of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open, the Australian Championships became 'open' to amateurs and professionals in 1969, a year after the other Grand Slams. The tournament was contested on Milton's grass courts in Brisbane between a men's field of 48 and a women's field of 32. Rod Laver's semifinal victory over Tony Roche was played in 105-degree heat. Their contest dragged on for more than four hours, 7-5 22-20 9-11 1-6 6-3, both players putting wet cabbage leaves in their hats to help them keep cool. Laver went on to win the title, defeating Andres Gimeno of Spain 6-3 6-4 7-5, claiming $5,000 in prize money and the first leg of his second Grand Slam. In the women's draw, Margaret Smith Court beat Billie Jean King 6-4 6-1 to take the $1,500 prize. Australian Open 1969 was the only year in the Open era, until resumption in 1986, that a mixed doubles championship was staged, Marty Riessen and Margaret Court sharing the title with Fred Stolle and Anne Haydon Jones. It was also the last year that a junior mixed doubles championship was played, Aussies Geoff Masters and Barbara Hawcroft taking the title.
Spurred on by the exploits of compatriot Rod Laver in 1969, Margaret Court began her Grand Slam campaign at Sydney's White City, not dropping a set throughout the tournament and defeating fellow Australian Kerry Melville 6-1 6-3 in the final. In an era when professional players were signed to tour-specific contracts, the Australian Open men's draw was depleted by the absence of Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andres Gimeno, Pancho Gonzales, Roy Emerson and Fred Stolle. All employees of the National Tennis League, they were banned from entering the Australian Open because the tournament's financial guarantees were deemed too low. Nevertheless, the men's draw had its highlights. Not least in the quarterfinal when Dennis Ralston beat John Newcombe 19-17 20-18 4-6 6-3 in the longest match (in games) in Australian Open history. The men's final was fought out between Arthur Ashe and Dick Crealy, Ashe claiming his lone Australian Open title 6-4 9-7 6-2. The result was particularly sweet for Ashe, one of the few top-ranked foreign players to regularly make the trip Down Under, because he'd lost to Roy Emerson in the 1966 and 1967 finals. Ashe was the first non-Australian to win the title since Alex Olmedo beat Neale Fraser in 1959.
With a Grand Slam of titles tucked snugly in her racquet bag, Margaret Court returned to Sydney in 1971 bidding for her fifth-consecutive Grand Slam trophy and her ninth Australian Open. Conditions at the tournament were made significantly less gruelling with the introduction of tiebreaks in all but deciding sets. Not that it affected Court, whose rigorous off-court fitness routine with Stan Nicholes was way ahead of its time. Court tested the breaker system just once in the five matches she played, the final against Evonne Goolagong which she won 2-6 7-6 (0) 7-5. In the men's draw local entries heavily outweighed the international contingent, with six of the 16 seeds Australian. All reached the third round or better, Ken Rosewall defeating defending champion Arthur Ashe 6-1 7-5 6-3 in the final having taken out two foreigners - Egyptian Ismail El Shafei and Dutchman Tom Okker - in earlier rounds. Another overseas player of interest was Torben Ulrich of Denmark whose first round defeat wasn't his most significant claim to fame. Torbin raised his son, Lars, to play tennis and the talented youngster moved to California aged 16 to pursue the sport, instead answering a newspaper advertisement for musicians and forming the heavy metal band Metallica, in which he plays drums to this day.
After years of dodging around the country, the Australian Open came to rest at a 'permanent' home, Melbourne's Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. With the gulf between players representing rival professional tours, the ILTF and the WCT, growing weekly, the ILTF banned WCT players from its events between January and July 1972. In a bid to subvert the ban, Australian Open organisers started their tournament on December 27, four days before activation of the ILTF ban. While in theory that opened entries to contracted players, in reality most continued to skip the tournament because of its proximity to Christmas. One player who made the trip was Brit Virginia Wade, who broke Evonne Goolagong's heart in the Aussie's second-consecutive Australian Open final, taking the title 6-4 6-4. The men's draw saw records set that stand to this day. Seeded No.2, Ken Rosewall made history for title-winning longevity, his 7-6 6-3 7-5 victory over Mal Anderson coming a full 19 years after his first Australian trophy in 1953. Aged 37 years and two months, Rosewall became the tournament's oldest men's singles champion and, given that at 36 his opponent Mal Anderson was no spring chicken either, their combined age of 73 made the final the oldest in the tournament's history.
John Newcombe's first Australian Open title came as something of a relief to the Sydneysider. Aged 29, his career spanned the amateur and Open eras and he had logged 10 years as a senior player when he defeated Onny Parun of New Zealand 6-3 6-7 7-5 6-1 in the final. "I would not have liked to have finished my career without winning an Australian title," he said of the victory that brought his Grand Slam singles trophy haul to five. While the 1973 tournament represented a first for Newcombe, for Margaret Smith Court it was a last - her 11th and final Australian singles title. Claimed at the expense of Evonne Goolagong, the losing finalist for a third-consecutive year, Court's 6-4 7-5 victory followed the birth of her first child, son Daniel, earlier in 1973. Foreign participation in the event continued to be marginal. Nine of 12 men's seeds were Australian with No.1 seed and defending champion Ken Rosewall losing in the second round to Karl Meiler of Germany. On the women's side all but three of the 12 seeds were Aussies, Japan's Kazuko Sawamatsu progressing furthest of the overseas players, losing in straight sets to Goolagong in the semifinal.
The Australian Open's timing, slap-bang in the middle of the holiday season, was a continued bone of contention with international players, the legendary Bjorn Borg boycotting the tournament saying, "I was trying to make a statement. My point was that a player requires some time to himself. He can't keep rushing from one court to another all the time without a break." Borg's lone foray Down Under in 1974 proved fruitless, the Swedish 11-time Grand Slam champion losing in the third round to Phil Dent (father of current American player Taylor Dent). Brash American Jimmy Connors enjoyed a more profitable first visit to Melbourne, defeating Dent in the final 7-6 6-4 4-6 6-3. Played under the banner of a naming rights sponsor - Marlboro cigarettes - for the first time in the event's history, there was joy for Evonne Goolagong in her fourth-consecutive Australian Open final appearance, the graceful and popular player defeating Chris Evert 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-0. "I felt confident even before I went out on court and I was on a roll," said Goolagong, who took a shower during the 10-sminute break the players were afforded during the second and third sets due to the oppressive conditions. "It was just what I needed...I won the third set quite easily."
The Australian Open's international profile skyrocketed in 1975, mainly due to the rivalry between world No.1 Jimmy Connors, and No.2, John Newcombe. Objecting to the tournament's dates, Newcombe only entered at the last minute on hearing that the American would be making the trip. Having missed the two previous Grand Slams through injury (which Connors had won), Newcombe tried to whip himself into shape by running up and down the hill behind his house in Pymble, Sydney. Nevertheless, Newcombe's ageing legs were underdone and bad weather didn't help his cause, forcing him to play the last three rounds on three consecutive days. In searing heat, and struggling with lactic acid build up and chronic tennis elbow, No.2 seed Newcombe somehow made his way to match point in the fourth set of the final, only to drop his serve. In the tiebreak the Aussie saved a couple of set points, fear of the physical repercussions of a fifth set steeling him to take the breaker. It was the first Australian Open match televised in America, on CBS, and was Connors' last competitive match in Australia. Newcombe won 7-5 3-6 6-4 7-6. Mourning the death of her father in a car accident, Evonne Goolagong cried on her coach's shoulder on receiving her second-consecutive Australian Open trophy having beaten Martina Navratilova 6-3 6-2.
For Australian tennis fans the year 1976 holds special meaning being the last time they celebrated a local men's singles champion. Mark Edmondson was far from favourite to win the championship coming into the tournament. Ranked No.212 in the world, the 21-year-old former odd jobs man looked an unlikely match for two-time champion and No.2 seed John Newcombe, yet it was he who handled the turbulent finals day weather conditions the best. Battling 40 degree temperatures and a wind storm which swept umpires chairs across the courts in 70kph winds, Edmondson ran out the winner 6-7 6-3 7-6 6-1 in what the newspapers dubbed 'the greatest upset for years in world tennis'. So unaccustomed was Edmondson to the winner's podium that he dropped the trophy during the presentation. Less of a surprise was Evonne Cawley's victory in the women's singles. Playing her sixth-consecutive AO final Cawley (nee Goolagong) taught her opponent Renata Tomanova of Czechoslovakia a thing or two about Grand Slam championship matches via a 6-2 6-2 drubbing. Given the atrocious weather conditions, competitors in the women's doubles final agreed that the title should be decided by one pro set, Goolagong Cawley partnering Helen Gourlay to defeat Lesley Turner Bowrey and Tomanova, 8-1.
Players were given two chances to take home an Australian Open title in 1977. The first opportunity came in the tournament's traditional Christmas/New Year time slot. Bolstered by the blockbuster storylines of the previous two tournaments, the event began to attract more support from overseas competitors and for the first time in the Open era the top two seeds in the men's draw were internationals, Guillermo Vilas and Roscoe Tanner. Previous year's finalists, John Newcombe and Evonne Cawley were both absent from their draws, the former due to injury, the latter because she was pregnant with her daughter Kelly, whom she gave birth to in May that year. Her absence in the 32 draw cleared the way for another talented Australian, Kerry Reid (nee Melville) to claim her home Grand Slam title, seven years after coming runner up to Margaret Court in the event. Nicknamed the Australian Tiger, Reid was a former Australian junior singles and doubles champion in 1965 and was also a former US Open finalist and Fed Cup stalwart. She defeated fellow Australian Dianne Fromholtz Balestrat 7-5 6-2. In the men's draw American Tanner got the better of Argentine Vilas in a straightforward 6-3 6-3 6-3 final.
In a bid to resolve the contention regarding the dates of the Australian Open, a second Australian Open was stage in December 1977, the tournament dates moved forward to avoid the Christmas/New Year holiday period in a bid to please the players. The 64-draw men's tournament featured a remarkable seven non-Australian seeds and again the final was an all-overseas affair, top seed Vitas Gerulaitis defeating Britain's John Lloyd in a rousing five-setter that kept the fans on their feet despite the lack of hometown interest. Returning from the birth of her first child, Kelly, in May, Evonne Cawley notched up her 20th straight singles victory at the Australian Open. The final was something of a mouthful for the umpire featuring Mrs Roger Cawley (Evonne Goolagong) and Mrs Robert Cawley (Helen Gourlay). In the end he gave up trying to get his head around who had won which point and resorted to the women's Christian names. Winning the championship match 6-3 6-0, Evonne Cawley became the first mother in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title. The two women's singles finalists paired up in the women's doubles, sharing the trophy with Mona Schallau Guerrant and Kerry Melville Reid after the final was washed out.
Australian Open 1978 signalled the end of an era. With tournament regular John Newcombe newly retired, it was left to fellow stalwarts Arthur Ashe and Ken Rosewall, both playing what was to be their last Australian Opens, to fly the flag for the old-timers. Seeded No.7, four-time champion Rosewall made it to the third round of his 14th AO at the ripe old age of 44. Ashe, aged 34 and one of the few overseas players to consistently make the trip to Australia, fared better, winning all the way through to the semifinal where he lost to unseeded Aussie John Marks in five sets. In the final, Guillermo Vilas won the title over Marks, 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-3. The women's championship was notable for the absence of Evonne Cawley with a leg injury, and for Chris O'Neil's victory - the last time an Australian woman claimed the Australian Open singles title. Ranked No.111 in the world, O'Neil's 6-3 7-6 victory made her the only unseeded AO women's champion of the Open era and the lowest-ranked player ever to win a Slam. It yielded a $6,000 pay cheque and the only singles title of O'Neil's career.
For the first time in 18 years the top two seeds in the women's draw at the Australian Open were overseas players. Neither top-seeded Virginia Ruzici of Romania, nor No.2-seeded Czechoslovakian Hana Mandlikova, lived up to their top billings, the former failing in the first round, the latter in the third round to No.5 seed Barbra Jordan of the USA. In the end it was Jordan and fellow American Sharon Walsh who made it through to the final, Jordan's 6-3 6-3 victory making her the first international woman to win the title since Virginia Wade in 1972. The changed tournament dates saw a steady increase in the number of international players journeying to Australia. Tournament No.2 seed and 1969 junior champion John Alexander fell victim to one of them - American Rick Fisher - in the first round. But, while top seed and defending champion Guillermo Vilas was cutting a swathe through the top half of the draw, Fisher's compatriot John Sadri forged ahead in the bottom half. In his first tournament final it was little surprise that Sadri crumbled 6-7 3-6 2-6 in the face of Vilas' superior experience, the Argentine claiming his fourth and final Slam. Meanwhile, Peter McNamara and future tournament director Paul McNamee won their first Grand Slam title in the men's doubles.
While changed tournament dates had placated the players to a degree, at the dawn of a new decade there were suggestions that the Australian Open no longer deserved its 'big four' status. The tournament's cause wasn't helped by the absence of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe who had split the previous three Slams between them and were indisputably the top two players in the world. In their absence the top two seeding positions in the men's draw were held by Guillermo Vilas, who was defeated in the semifinal by Kim Warwick, and Ivan Lendl, who lost in the second round clearing Brian Teacher's path to the final. Defeating John Fitzgerald in the second round and defending champion Vilas in a thrilling five-set semifinal, Sydney-born Warwick claimed an all-time record when, in his 32nd Grand Slam attempt, he reached the final. His 7-5 7-6(4) 6-3 conqueror Teacher was the first Jewish man to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era. Meanwhile, Queensland's Wendy Turnbull established a benchmark of her own, becoming the last Australian women to reach the final of her home Grand Slam. She lost 6-0 7-5 to Hana Mandlikova, in the Czech-born 18-year-old's first of three career majors.
Australian Open 1981 marked the beginning of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert's five-year monopoly of the women's singles title. It was their first Melbourne meeting and Navratilova's 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 victory was, to that point, the longest match (in games) of an Open era Australian Open women's singles final. With few of the world's top male players making the trip Down Under, South Africa's Johan Kriek went to town on the weak field, beating a youthful Tim Mayotte in the quarterfinal and Mark Edmondson in the semifinal. His opponent in the final was unseeded American Steve Denton, a player whose game was most remarkable for the two-step run up that generated his powerful serve - a move now banned. Hitting winner after winner off Denton's bombshell deliveries, Kriek won the first two sets and held four match points in the third. Denton managed to hang on to serve his way through a tiebreak, only to concede the fourth set, handing Kriek a 6-2 7-6(1) 6-7(1) 6-4 win and the $65,000 prize money cheque. Kriek's victory made him the first South African man in history to win a Grand Slam singles title. In the junior championships, Melbourne-born Anne Minter completed a hat trick of girls' singles titles.
Australian Open 1982 saw a Groundhog Day of sorts. Defending his title against another depleted field defending champion Johan Kriek, by then a naturalised American, cruised to the semifinal where he hit a roadblock in the form of future tournament director Paul McNamee. Leading by two sets to love, Kriek allowed McNamee back into the match and only scraped through to his second Slam final when the Melbourne local tightened up on match point in the fifth set. Seeded for the first time, Steve Denton also progressed to what was the first repeated men's final line-up since Roy Emerson and Arthur Ashe in 1967. With Denton's unusual service action off form, he struggled to make an impression on the final, falling 6-3 6-3 6-2. While the line-up for the 1982 women's final was identical to that of 1981, the first repeated Australian Open women's final line up in the Open era, the outcome was very different. Breaking a three-match losing streak against Navratilova, Chris Evert reversed the 1981 result, claiming the trophy and her first Australian Open title 6-3 2-6 6-3. There was some consolation for Navratilova in the women's doubles final, she and Pam Shriver teaming up to win the first of four-consecutive doubles titles Down Under.
With Chris Evert missing in action, it appeared that Navratilova would have little difficulty claiming her first Australian Open title in 1983. She didn't have things all her own way on Kooyong's sodden grass courts though, and was nearly toppled by an in-form Jo Durie in a quarterfinal played over two days due to rain. Surviving the Brit, she went on to beat Kathy Jordan 6-2 7-6(5) in the final, her 50th-consecutive singles victory. By teaming with Pam Shriver to win their second successive doubles title Navratilova also became the third woman in Open history to win the AO singles and doubles titles in the same year (after Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley). Early in the men's tournament Johan Kriek looked like he might be on course for a hat trick of Australian Open singles titles but Mats Wilander put paid to those dreams in the quarterfinal. The 19-year-old Swede went on to beat John McEnroe in the semis and Ivan Lendl 6-1 6-4 6-4 in the final to become the youngest Australian Open champion since Ken Rosewall in 1953. In the men's doubles, Paul McNamee won his first Australian Open title partnering Mark Edmondson, while the boys' singles was won by budding champion Stefan Edberg.
International interest in the Australian Open began to pick up in 1984, ESPN televising the event in the US for the first time. John McEnroe was a disappointing withdrawal from the tournament after injuring his wrist in practice. Path cleared, Mats Wilander romped to the final, pausing only long enough to crush two-time champion Johan Kriek 6-1 6-0 6-2 in a humiliating 63-minute semifinal. Wilander had a tougher battle against South Africa's Kevin Curren in the championship match but fought his way to the trophy 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(3) 6-2. With six-consecutive Slam titles to her name, Navratilova's place in the women's final looked assured as she stepped on court for her semifinal against Helena Sukova. Everything was going according to the script with the top seed racing to a 6-1 lead but little more than an hour later found herself returning a Sukova serve long on match point, waving goodbye to a 74-match streak in the process. Navratilova's consolation came in the form of a calendar-year women's doubles Grand Slam with Pam Shriver. In the singles final Sukova fought, but wasn't able to prevent Evert from claiming her 132nd tournament title and 1003rd match win, 7-6(4) 6-1 6-2. For Evert it was the eleventh consecutive year that she'd won at least one major singles title.
Martina Navratilova was at the peak of her powers on arriving in Melbourne for the 1985 championship - the last to be staged in December. It had been 13 years since any woman had clinched both the Brisbane and Sydney lead-in tournaments and, having done so, the only thing standing in the way of Navratilova and a trifecta of Aussie titles was her old adversary Chris Evert. Squaring up for the 67th meeting of their rivalry, Navratilova extended her head-to-head record over Evert to 35-32 in a classic three set battle, 6-2 4-6 6-2. "Martina and I have pushed each other to get better and better," said Evert Lloyd after the final. A bad-tempered men's event saw both Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe cop 21-day suspensions for argumentative behaviour after voicing their frustrations with Kooyong's damp grass courts. Stefan Edberg's semifinal victory over Lendl snapped the Czech's 31-match winning streak and was remarkable for the final game of the match in which a Lendl smash under the net went unnoticed by the umpire, a visibly surprised Edberg managing to hit the resulting shot for a winner. The final, featuring 19-year-old Edberg and two-time champion Mats Wilander, was the first time in Slam history that two Swedes contested the decider of a major.
Tiring of the endless battle to attract international players to the Australian Open during the December holiday, organisers took the decision to move the tournament right away from the Christmas/New Year period, scheduling it in a new, permanent timeslot in January. As a result, there was no championship in December 1986, the tournament instead taking place a month later in 1997. The year 1986 was significant in the tournament's history, however, marking the start of construction on the National Tennis Centre at Flinders (now Melbourne) Park. Scheduled for completion in 1987, the venue was destined to become the new permanent home for the Australian Open from 1988.
With construction work on Melbourne's new National Tennis Centre well under way, Australian Open 1987 marked the end of an era with the tournament staged at Kooyong, and on grass, for the last time. The new, January, timeslot failed to lure Steffi Graf and Chris Evert Down Under so it was left to Martina Navratilova to fly the flag for the world's top three in the women's draw. Her 7-5 7-6(2) final defeat, at the hands of No.2 seed Hana Mandlikova, signified the end of a 58-match winning streak that dated back to the 1986 French Open. Feeling nostalgic, a record 140,000 fans attended Kooyong's swansong and local spectators were rewarded with the spectacle of a home-town finalist for the first time since John Marks in 1978. No.11 seed Pat Cash, complete with earring and chequered headband, battled his way into title contention. And he gave 1985 defending champion Stefan Edberg a five-set run for his money in the championship match, eventually conceding 6-3 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3. After a break of 16 years, the mixed doubles event was reinstated at the 1987 tournament, Americans Zina Garrison and Sherwood Stewart defeating British pair Anne Hobbs and Andrew Castle, 3-6 7-6(5)6-3.
Australian Open 1988 was staged at its new home - Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park). Named after 18th century explorer Matthew Flinders, the venue's centrepiece, a $70,000, 14,820-seat stadium, was the first Grand Slam arena with a retractable roof. The complex also boasted green, Rebound Ace hard courts, air conditioned corporate boxes and a state-of-the-art function centre. No.14-seeded Aussie Dianne Fromholtz Ballestrat was first to play on the new centre court and was promptly beaten by qualifier and world No.304 Wendy Wood. They were followed onto court by 1987 finalist Pat Cash who was booed by banner-wielding anti-apartheid protesters and pelted with black tennis balls at the seventh-game change of ends. Reigning South African Open champion Cash shrugged off the distraction to reach the final for a second consecutive year. He lost to Mats Wilander in a 6-3 6-7(3) 3-6 6-1 8-6 epic regarded as the best Slam decider of the season. The sliding roof was employed for the women's final, a match losing finalist Chris Evert described as "the weirdest I ever played". It was also to be the last Slam final she ever played. In taking the title 6-1 7-6(3), Steffi Graf secured the first leg of her 'Golden' Grand Slam, going on to win the French, Wimbledon and US Open titles and an Olympic gold medal in Seoul.
It was the year Kim Kessaris won the girls' singles title and the first time Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's future coach, Eric Windogradsky, reached the second round of the Australian Open. Of course, Australian Open 1989 showcased some more meaningful events as well. It marked Pete Sampras' debut, the future champion falling in round one to Christian Saceanu, a German best know to his friends and family. It was the year that defending champion Mats Wilander crashed out to Ramesh Krishnan in round two and that Steffi Graf won her fifth straight Grand Slam title, defeating Helena Sukova 6-4 6-4. Ivan Lendl's victory over 'Big Cat' Miloslav Mercir, 6-2 6-2 6-2, distinguished him as the only player older than 21, male or female, to capture a Grand Slam title in 1989. The 29 year old also set a record for reaching the most Grand Slam quarterfinals in the Open era - 14 between the 1985 US Open and Australian Open 1989 - a record only surpassed by Roger Federer in 2008. And it was the tournament at which Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver won their seventh consecutive AO doubles title. Their victory was a tournament record for a pair, made Navratilova the winner of most Aussie women's doubles titles, and was their last major title together, the duo splitting before the US Open.
In 1990, the fireworks weren't confined to Australia Day, umpire Gerry Armstrong and chief supervisor Ken Farrar putting a rocket under John McEnroe in his fourth round match, disqualifying him for unsportsmanlike conduct under the new three strikes you're out rule. The 'Super Brat', tied up 1-6 6-4 5-7 4-2 with Mikael Pernfors at the time, was the first man to be booted out of the Australian Open in tournament history and the first man in the Open era to be shown the door for misconduct at a Grand Slam. The men's final was something of a fizzer by comparison. Pitting world No.1 Ivan Lendl, complete with trademark legionnaires' cap, and world No.3 Stefan Edberg, it had the makings of a classic. Lendl led their head-to-head 9-6 but Edberg had won their only other AO meeting back in 1985 and also their most recent clash at the 1989 year-end Masters in New York. The contest was shaping up well, poised at a set apiece 4-6 7-6 when Edberg, trailing 2-5 in the third, retired with a torn abdominal muscle. The women's final was even more low-key. Steffi Graf, in hot pursuit of her third-consecutive Australian Open title, secured it with ease against Grand Slam final first-timer Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-2 6-4.
With the 1990 French Open title under her belt, Monica Seles began her ascendency in earnest in Melbourne. Dropping just 12 games in her first five rounds, she had a three set battle with 1990 finalist Mary Joe Fernandez in the semis to earn a final berth against Jana Novotna. Czech Novotna eliminated some impressive opposition en route to the final including top seed Steffi Graf - the first time in 17 Grand Slam appearances that the German hadn't made the semifinal. She was in for another tough stoush against Seles in the final, eventually conceding 5-7 6-3 6-1 to the teenager who, by year's end, was the youngest world champion in history. Boris Becker reached his first Australian Open final the hard way. His 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 0-6 4-6 14-12 third round victory over unseeded Italian Omar Camporese was, at five hours and 11 minutes, the longest match in the history of the men's event. His final opponent was no lightweight either, Ivan Lendl maintaining a perfect record of having contested at least one Grand Slam final in each of the past 11 years. Lendl's experience was no match for 'Boom Boom' Becker who served up a 1-6 6-4 6-4 6-4 defeat the Czech in his last Grand Slam final appearance.
Jim Courier's passage to the final of Australian Open 1992 couldn't have been easier. The world No.2 dropped one set on the way to the semifinal where he didn't have to hit a single ball when Richard Krajicek passed up "the chance of a lifetime" (or so the future Wimbledon champion thought) defaulting with shoulder tendinitis. Stefan Edberg's passage was almost as relaxed, the two-time champion dismantling Wayne Ferrera's error-riddled game in a straight sets semifinal. Despite a three day break, Courier showed no signs of rustiness in the final, counter-punching his way through the Swede's serve-volley arsenal, 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-2, to avenge his defeat at the 1991 US Open. To celebrate the trophy and his newly acquired world No.1 status Courier proved himself a sporting all-rounder, diving into the notoriously polluted Yarra River. With Steffi Graf a last minute withdrawal from the women's draw due, ironically, to German measles, the No.2 seeding position was filled by lucky loser Ann Devries of Belgium. Graf's absence allowed Mary Joe Fernandez to romp to the final where she was stomped on by Moncia Seles, claiming her second-consecutive Australian Open title 6-2 6-3. Meanwhile in the men's doubles Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won their first Australian Open and second Grand Slam title as a pair.
Melbourne turned on the heat for Australian Open 1993. With the centre court temperature measuring around the 60 degree mark, the outside courts scorched in a blistering 40 degrees and a lineswoman and three ballkids fainted during qualifying. One man you didn't hear complaining was Jim Courier; that is until the final. The native Floridian, accustomed to training at his desert home in California, just got happier the higher the temperatures rose, storming through the draw without the loss of a set. What he wasn't happy about was suggestions that, with the court surface approaching 66 degrees, the roof might be closed for the final. There's no point in being world No.1 if you can't throw your weight around a bit and, after threatening to boycott the decider, the roof remained open, much to the dismay of Courier's opponent, 'cool' Swede Stefan Edberg. Given the heat, Courier didn't look quite so daft when he took his customary dip in the Yarra after blasting past Edberg 6-2 6-1 2-6 7-5. Monica Seles cemented her dominance over Steffi Graf, scoring her third win in five Grand Slam meetings with the German in the 1993 final. Her victory brought her AO tally to 21 consecutive matches and three titles, equalling Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley's records from the 1970s.
Australian Open 1994 was a numbers game. For American Todd Martin it was the first Grand Slam final of his career. By contrast, in beating Martin 7-6(4) 6-4 6-4 in the final, Pete Sampras notched up his second title of the year, the 23rd title of his career, and joined Jack Crawford, Lew Hoad, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Don Budge as one of only a handful of male players to win three-consecutive major titles. As attendance figures hit a record 332,926 for the first time, Kimiko Date became the first Japanese woman since Kazuko Sawamatsu (at Australian Open 1973) to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. In the absence of Monica Seles, sidelined after being stabbed during a match in Hamburg in 1993, Steffi Graf wasted no time enhancing her own impressive collection of statistics. Her 6-0 6-2 final victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was the fastest in Australian Open women's singles history - it took Sanchez Vicario a full 31 minutes to even get herself on the scoreboard. The win represented Graf's 80th career singles title and fourth-consecutive Slam title making her only the second woman at that time to have won a non-calendar year Grand Slam.
After 32 years under Jim Reid, the Australian Open had a new tournament director at the helm. The elevation of two-time men's doubles champion Paul McNamee to the top job was by no means the only historic event to take place in 1995. He was joined by another tournament debutante - Andre Agassi. World No.1 Pete Sampras battled his opponents and personal demons, his coach Tim Gullickson collapsing during a practice session and being flown home after a brain tumour was diagnosed. Sampras nearly made a quarterfinal exit against Jim Courier, coming back from 0-2 down in the fifth set after breaking down in tears when a fan encouraged him to "do it for your coach". The centre court's sliding roof was no match for Melbourne's weather, rainfall during the Agassi, Aaron Krickstein semifinal flooding the arena and turning the stands into waterfalls. A men's tournament of intense drama eventuated in a Sampras v Agassi final that perfectly showcased the pair's growing rivalry, Agassi taking the trophy 4-6 6-1 7-6(6) 6-4 on his Melbourne debut. By contrast, Mary Pierce skipped through the women's draw not dropping a set, nor more than four games in any one set, to take the title 6-3 6-2 over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Australian Open 1996 benefitted from a facilities upgrade that effectively doubled the size of the venue. An investment of $23 million bought two new show courts, one seating 3,000 the other seating 800, eight new Rebound Ace courts, 500 extra car parking spaces and the hugely popular Garden Square. While 15-year-old Martina Hingis made a splash, reaching the quarterfinal, the best Slam performance of her career to that point, story of the tournament was Monica Seles' triumphant return. The American, sidelined in 1994 and 1995 after she was stabbed by a crazed fan in Hamburg in 1993, made her way to the final where she faced Anke Huber. In defeating the German, Seles maintained her unbroken record 32-consecutive Australian Open matches and four-consecutive titles. The draw also produced the longest match in the history of the women's tournament, Chanda Rubin's 6-4 2-6 16 14 quarterfinal defeat of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario lasting an impressive three hours, 33 minutes. Aussie Mark Philippoussis sparked excitement, serving up 29 aces to beat top seed Pete Sampras 6-4 7-6(9) 7-6(3) in the third round. But it was Boris Becker, in the twilight of his career, who made the grade beating Michael Chang 6-2 6-4 2-6 6-2 for his sixth and last Grand Slam title.
Aged 16 years, three months and 26 days, Martina Hingis was the belle of the ball at Australian Open 1997, winning her first Grand Slam title over 1995 champion Mary Pierce of France. In a women's draw riddled with upsets, Graf, Davenport and 1996 runner-up Huber all falling in the fourth round, Hingis didn't drop a set during the entire tournament. Her 6-2 6-2 defeat of Pierce distinguished her as the youngest player of the 20th century to win a major. The Swiss Miss also teamed with Natasha Zvereva to take the doubles title. Dubbed the sexiest man at the Australian Open, Carlos Moya captured the hearts and minds of Australian Open fans defeating seeds Boris Becker, Felix Mantilla and Michael Chang to reach his first Grand Slam final, the youngest man to do so at the Australian Open since Stefan Edberg in 1985. Facing Pete Sampras in a championship match played in stifling heat, the odds were stacked against the Spaniard. Sampras' 6-2 6-3 6-3 victory made him the second most successful male player in Grand Slam history, his ninth title allowing him to overtake Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl and bringing him within three majors of equalling Roy Emerson's record.
Flinders Park became Melbourne Park in 1998 and fans were treated to some fancy footwork never before seen on centre court - the Petr Korda scissor kick. Turning 30 during the tournament Korda was an unlikely champion, his only other Grand Slam final appearance coming six years previously at the French Open. The No.6 seed enjoyed a dream run to the final facing just one seed, Jonas Bjorkman, prior to his trophy deciding match up with Marcelo Rios. It was the crowning moment of Korda's career. The Czech dominated the match from start to finish, taking the title 6-2 6-2 6-2 and celebrating mid-court with his signature move. Her quest for world domination gathered steam, Martina Hingis won her second-consecutive Australian Open title. Hingis' victim, Conchita Martinez, was a veteran by comparison. The Spaniard had already logged 10 years as a professional and won the 1994 Wimbledon title the same year Hingis won the Wimbledon girls' singles trophy. The Swiss' 86-minute 6-3 6-3 pasting of Martinez secured her fourth Grand Slam title and made her the youngest player in the Open era to defend a major. Elsewhere, Venus Williams won her first Grand Slam doubles title, partnering Justin Gimelstob for the mixed trophy.
Exhausted after finishing 1998 as world No.1 for a sixth-straight year, Pete Sampras skipped Australian Open 1999. In Yevgeny Kafelnkov's words, "Pete not playing kind of opened up the draw for everybody. A lot of guys thought they could win..." One of those guys was Swede Thomas Enqvist, the 24-year-old Adelaide champion. A classic 'dangerous floater', unseeded Enqvist broke the hearts of Aussie fans, quashing reining US Open champ Pat Rafter in the third round and bazooka-serving Mark Philippoussis in a five set, fourth round classic. Winning thoughts clearly extended to Kafelnikov himself, the Russian overcoming big occasion nerves to quell Enqvist 4-6 6-0 6-3 7-6(1) in the final. Monica Seles' 7-5 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Steffi Graf was the penultimate clash in the pair's legendary rivalry, Graf retiring later in the year. Venus Williams endured a wardrobe malfunction in her quarterfinal loss to Lindsay Davenport her hair beads working lose, forcing a time out for ballkids to retrieve them. Chasing her third-consecutive Australian Open, Martina Hingis took on unseeded Amelie Mauresmo in the final, the Frenchwoman's first in a major. A rapid 6-2 6-3 winner, Hingis showered photographers with champagne on Brighton beach having already helped Anna Kournikova to the women's doubles title, the first Slam title of the Russian's career.
Tournament organisers marked the turn of the century, paying tribute to Australia's greatest tennis player, Rod Laver, by renaming Melbourne Park's centre court in his honour. Spectator numbers had grown steadily in the late '90s and, in 2000, attendance burst through the 500,000 barrier for the first time. One major drawcard was a resurgent Jennifer Capriati, returning to Melbourne Park for just the fourth time since 1993. Capriati stumbled in the semifinal against Lindsay Davenport, who went on defeat Martina Hingis 6-1 7-5 in the final, having not dropped a set during her title campaign. Match of the tournament was the Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi semifinal, the latter extending his win-loss record over Sampras to 18-12. Agassi went on to defeat Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-4, his sixth Grand Slam trophy and the only title of his 2000 season. Mindful of the ever-increasing number of spectators flocking to the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, organisers began a facilities upgrade that included the installation of a second stadium court with a retractable roof. Seating 11,000 people, Vodafone Arena (now Hisense Arena) was opened on 27 July 2000.
A new decade brought with it a new attitude to sporting equality, the Australian Open offering its male and female players prize money parity. Buoyed by her exploits at Australian Open 2000, Jennifer Capriati used Rod Laver Arena as the springboard from which to launch a remarkable career comeback. Overhauling a 0-5 head-to-head record with her final opponent Martina Hingis, and a full nine years after reaching the quarterfinal as a 15-year-old prodigy, Capriati took the title 6-4 6-3 saying: "Dreams do come true". The men's draw served up two classic semifinal contests, compatriots Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean fighting out a late-running match that ran well into Friday night. The previous evening saw Andre Agassi quell a cramp-crippled Pat Rafter in a classic counter-puncher v serve-volleyer duel. The final was a breeze by contrast, Agassi defending a Slam title for the first time by defeating Clement 6-4 6-2 6-2. Shut out of the singles by Capriati and Hingis, the unseeded Williams sisters made a successful tilt at the doubles title, while Todd Woodbridge brought his Grand Slam title tally to 12, his first-time partnership with Jonas Bjorkman reaping rewards. With Vodafone Arena in commission, fan numbers grew again, 543,834 pouring through the gates.
In 2002 local fans had credible hopes of cheering home a national champion, top seed Lleyton Hewitt riding the crest of his first US Open title and 2001 year-end world No.1 ranking. Those hopes were dashed when he lost in four to Alberto Martin in round one. A fourth round victory over Pete Sampras (his last competitive match Down Under), and Hewitt's defeat, cleared Marat Safin's path to the final against Thomas Johansson, who hadn't progressed beyond the quarterfinal in 24 Slams. Celebrating his 22nd birthday, the enigmatic Russian was favoured but phoned in his performance, conceding 3-6 6-4 6-4 7-6(4), seemingly distracted by an entourage of blondes sitting in the stands. The women's final was even more remarkable, played in 35 degree heat between former champ Martina Hingis, chasing her first Slam title since Australian Open 1999, and defending champion Jennifer Capriati. Hingis let four match points slip in the second set after which both players languished on gurneys in ice vests during a 10-minute break. Despite leading 2-1 in the third, Hingis was unable to win another game, Capriati the first woman to come back from a record four championship points down in a Grand slam since Margaret Court Smith at the 1962 French Open, taking the title 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2.
There was much riding on Andre Agassi's 6-2 6-2 6-1 final triumph over German Rainer Schuettler at Australian Open 2003. Not only was it his third Australian title in four years but a bet on the outcome meant wife Steffi Graf had to play in the French Open mixed doubles with him, which she didn't. Agassi reclaimed the world No.1 ranking and the title was his eighth and final Slam victory. Match of the tournament was Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui's quarterfinal at night. Roddick's 4-6 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-4 21-19 win was, at 83 games, the event's second longest match ever. Their 40-game fifth set, which lasted two and a half hours, was the longest fifth set in tournament history. Meanwhile, following victories at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2002, Serena Williams' 7-6(4) 3-6 6-4 over Venus secured her the 'Serena Slam'. Monica Seles' second round appearance was her last competitive match in Melbourne notching up an incredible 47-4 win-loss record. And Martina Navratilova collected the mixed doubles title - the only jewel missing from her Grand Slam crown. Aged 46 years and three months, her 57th major made her the oldest Grand Slam champion in history and the most prolific Australian Open champion with 12 trophies to her name.
While defending champion Andre Agassi's Grand Slam title-winning days were over his performance at Australian Open 2004, egged on by a record 521,691 fans, almost had the makings of a fairytale. Falling at the penultimate hurdle to Marat Safin, Agassi passed the Australian Open title torch to legend in the making, Roger Federer. A fully focused Safin was unable to prevent the Swiss from claiming the second Slam title of his career and his consequent elevation to world No.1, a ranking he then held for more than 200 weeks. No.4 seeded Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo was going great guns in the women's draw until the fourth round when she injured her back and was forced to withdraw from the quarterfinal. Her benefactor, Fabiola Zuluaga, became the first Colombian woman to reach the semifinal of a Grand Slam. The women's final was fought out between Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the third time in four Grand Slams that they'd faced each other in the final. Henin maintained her perfect Slam head-to-head record and prevailed 6-3 4-6 6-3. Meanwhile Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra were so overjoyed to win their second Australian Open doubles title that they stripped to their underwear, throwing their sweaty tennis kit to fans.
The Australian Open celebrated its centenary in 2005, staging a party commensurate with the occasion and laying on a tournament of records and milestones. Joachim Johansson served up 38 aces, and Feliciano Lopez 34 in their 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6(2) 13-11 third round, four-hour contest - the most numerous in a match in history. 'Pim Pim' also served the most aces in AO history (126 in four rounds) and the most aces by an individual in one match (51 against Agassi). The tournament was attended by a record 543,873 fans, the middle Saturday hosting 60,669, the first time any Grand Slam had broken the 60,000 daily attendance milestone. Alicia Molik shone, defeating Venus Williams in the fourth round and extending Lindsay Davenport to three tough sets in the quarterfinal. Man of the moment was Lleyton Hewitt who scored wins over James Blake, Rafael Nadal, David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick (in the best-attended - 16,152 fans - night session of the tournament's history) to reach the final. And, while Marat Safin won the title (his first Slam for six years) 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-4, Hewitt won himself a wife, proposing to actor Rebecca Cartwright after the match. Meanwhile Serena Williams broke her 2004 Grand Slam title drought, battling past Davenport 2-6 6-3 6-0.
Australian Open 2006 was arguably the most emotional in the tournament's history. There was angst as Nicolas Kiefer controversially threw his racquet at Sebastian Grosjean during their quarterfinal, and excitement as comeback queen Martina Hingis progressed to the quarterfinal -further than any other female wildcard in AO history. There was remembrance as Daphne Akhurst, after whom the women's trophy was named, was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame and hope as Gosford wildcard Nathan Healey made it all the way to the third round, pushing Nikolay Davydenko to four sets. Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and his exuberant supporters were joy personified, the 2003 junior champion's cheer squad urging him through wins over Stepanek, Nalbandian, Ljubicic and Roddick, all the way to the final. Roger Federer's happiness on claiming the title 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2 manifested itself in a different way, the champ in tears as he accepted his second Australian Open trophy from his hero, Rod Laver. Then there was the reaction to Justine Henin's mid-match withdrawal (due to stomach pains) during her final against Amelie Mauresmo; a melting pot of elation, outrage, indignation, pity, and speculation that consumed players and fans alike. Mauresmo's 6-1 2-0 victory was her first Grand Slam title in 32 attempts.
Serena Williams was beyond doubt the story of Australian Open 2007. Sure Roger Federer took the men's title without dropping a set. Yes attendance figures grew again with 554,858 fans enjoying the action. And granted Video Line Calling captured the imaginations of spectators packed into Rod Laver Arena. Nevertheless, it was the younger Williams sister who stole the show. A 17-1 shot going into the tournament and ranked No.81 in the world, Williams defeated five seeds en route to her third AO title despite being three points away from defeat in her third round match against Nadia Petrova and two points away from crashing out to Shahar Peer in the quarterfinal. Williams' final against Maria Sharapova, played under a closed roof, was the quickest since Steffi Graf defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1994. Federer's third Australian Open victory, 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4, came at the expense of Fernando Gonzalez, a surprise finalist who beat Lleyton Hewitt in the third round, James Blake in the fourth and Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal. Australia celebrated its first junior champion for 13 years when Brydan Klein took the boys' singles title. Video Line Calling rapidly developed a fan following and players used it judiciously, 86 successful challenges made from 188 attempts in the men's and women's singles.
Melbourne Park underwent a radical transformation in 2008, the traditional green Rebound Ace replaced with blue Plexicushion. The colour attracted rave reviews from all but Andy Roddick who said: "Half my family is colour blind anyway so it doesn't really matter". With the colour change came a more consistent medium-fast to fast-paced court surface but even that was not enough to speed up proceedings between Marcos Baghdatis and Lleyton Hewitt, who went on court for their third round match at 11:49 pm and didn't come off until 4:34 am the following morning - the latest-finish in tournament history. Serbians featured heavily in the latter stages of the tournament; Jelena Jankovic reaching the semifinal and Ana Ivanovic falling 7-5 6-3 to Maria Sharapova in the women's final. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6(2) in a bubbling cauldron of a men's final. Off court the tournament set a world record for Grand Slam day/night attendance - 62,885 fans on day four (breaking the record 61,083 set by the US Open on 1 September 2007), and overall attendance exceeded 600,000 for the first time with a record of 605,735 fans through the gates. On court, Bernard Tomic became the youngest junior Grand Slam champion in the Open era aged 15 years and three months.
Local fans had everything to cheer about at Australian Open 2009, Jelena Dokic putting past troubles behind her with a barnstorming run to the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. A wildcard, she fought past three seeded players - No.17 Anna Chakvetadze, No.11 Caroline Wozniacki and No.29 Alisa Kleybanova - en route and, once there, she played one of the most enthralling matches of the women's event, taking world No.1 Dinara Safina to three tight sets. Ultimately it was Serena Williams who took the women's singles honours, however, defeating Safina in the final for her fourth Australian Open title. The men's draw produced some classic contests, not least Fernando Gonzalez' five-set third-round victory over Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco's record-breaking five-hour, 14-minute five set semifinal. When the dust settled, it was left to world No.1 Nadal and No.2 Roger Federer to do battle for the men's singles title in a dream final, the Spaniard living up to his top seeding after another incredible five-setter. The trophy presentation produced more drama with Federer unable to complete his runners-up speech through tears of disappointment and Nadal, his conqueror, consoling the Swiss with a comforting arm around his shoulder. In the stands, the tournament attracted more than 500,000 patrons for the tenth-consecutive year, recording the highest day/night attendance in Grand Slam history on three separate days in the first week. The new record, 66,018 patrons, was set on Saturday 24 January.
The Australian Open continued to grow in 2010, attracting a record crowd of 653,860 which included a daily Grand Slam record patronage of 77,043. Players responded to the voracious support by providing one of the most memorable tournaments in recent years. After claiming his maiden Australian Open (and hard court Grand Slam) in 2009, Rafael Nadal eased past Australian hope Peter Luczak in straight sets on opening night. His tournament would end against Andy Murray however, the Spaniard retiring from their quarterfinal with injury in a match punctuated by Australia Day fireworks. Murray would progress to the final where he was no match for Roger Federer, who avenged his final defeat in 2009, winning in three tight sets. The win extended Federer's Grand Slam record to 16 and tied Andre Agassi with four Australian Open crowns. Entering the tournament with a wildcard, Justine Henin made the most of her opportunity, dropping just two sets en route to a final showdown against Serena Williams. Ultimately, the former champ was no match for the American, going down in an entertaining three-set tussle. Earlier on Day 8, Williams had defeated fan-favourite Samantha Stosur, but her fourth round appearance would be just the start of a remarkable year for the Australian, which was highlighted by an appearance in the French Open final. The 2010 tournament also acted as a breakout event for compatriot Bernard Tomic who was beaten but far from disgraced against Marin Cilic under the glare of the Rod Laver Arena lights.