Australian Open's prestige is not defined by the fact that it is the only Grand Slam event in the southern hemisphere. That it was first held in 1905 is also not the real proof of it's stature. What truly defines this tournament is the importance that premier tennis players have attached to it for more than a century - from Roy Emerson to Roger Federer.
Held in Melbourne Park, the Australian Open has seen a sea of change in a century of its existence but has transformed in a way that its sheen has not dimmed a single shade since the pre-WW1 days. Managed by Lawn Tennis Association of Australia (now known as Tennis Australia), the event was first held at Warehouseman's Cricket Ground and was called Australasian Championships. In it's initial years, the tournament was not recognised as a major event and it was only in 1924 that International Lawn Tennis Federation recognised and designated it as a major championship. The name was changed to Australian Championship and finally adopted the name by which it is known today.
Fans and experts agree that champions are replaced by younger champions. They agree in Melbourne, that legends remain legends. From Jack Crawford and Joan Hartigan in the 1930s to Andre Agassi and Serena Williams by the turn of the millennium, players have fought out of their skin to claim the crown here. Some have done so on more occasions than one. Although hard to choose a few among many, the likes of Nancye Wynne Bolton (6-time winner), Margaret Court (11-time winner), Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver have shone brightly on the courts Down Under.
In recent years, Federer (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010), Agassi (1995, 2000, 2001, 2003), Steffi Graf (1988, 1989, 1990, 1994), Monica Seles (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996) and Serena Williams (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) have inspired a generation of fans and players not just here but all over.
The current ATP and WTA ranking points for Australian Open awards the champion in singles event 2000 points. The runners-up in the womens' singles event earns 1400 while her male counterpart gets 1200 points.
In monetary terms the winner earns 2,300,000 Australian dollars while the runner up has to make do with $1,150,000.
The finer, more intricate detail
As mentioned above, to pick and proclaim any one player as the most successful here would be blasphemy in tennis terms. The following however is a compilation of interesting facts from Australian Open through the years:
* Martina Hingis was 16 years and 4 months in 1997 when she won the tournament. Her youngest counterpart in male singles was Ken Roswell who won the tournament in 1953 at an age of 18 years and 2 months.
* Australia's Horace Rice was 52 when he won the men's doubles event in 1923.
* Martina Navratilova between 1980 and 2003 won 3 singles, 8 women's doubles, 1 mixed doubles here.
* Garden Square is a popular spot during the tournament. It is a space on the outer periphery which has a huge screen showing live matches, roving entertainers, MLC Tennis Hot Shot and a Fan Zone.
* Roger Federer will look to go past Andre Agassi's record of winning here on four occasions, this year. Federer has won the same number of times.
* Nancye Wynne Bolton won the tournament six times and many feel she could have won many more had she not been halted by the outbreak of World War 2.