Australian open has a rich history of talented players and engrossing matches, of legends made and dreams shattered, and of an entire world cheering their favourite players on for over a century.
The first tournament was held in 1905 when the event was called Australasian Championship. It was renamed as Australian Championship in 1927 and it was in 1969 that it assumed its current name. In fact, the event was designated as a major championship by International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) in 1924. Seedings were brought to the event in the same year and matches were played on grass then. The greens continued to be played on till 1987.
The tournament in the early decades was held in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and the New Zealand cities of Christchurch (1906) and Hastings (1912).
The decision to host the tournament in the same city came only in 1972 and Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club was chosen because Melbourne saw the largest following for the event. The vast Australian landscape and the geographic location of the country meant that not many top-player could make it to the event in its formative years but as time passed, stars began attaching great significance to it and having a fixed venue furthered matters.
Fast-forward time and 1988 saw the construction of Melbourne Park, known earlier as Flinders Park. The main reason for the new venue was because the event at Kooyaong could not handle the growing number of people who had begun registering their attendance. The shift brought in an even larger number of people flocking in to see the matches. In the event the same year, close to 240,000 fans bought tickets. A change of venue was proposed again in 2008 with Melbourne's contract set to expire in 2016.
With the change in venues has also been a change in the time of the year the event has been played in. While January was the preferred month at the beginning, October and December have also hosted the event.
Amateurs and heroes have all created and shared memories here. Men and women who have defined tennis as a sport have showcased their skills here.
Australian legend Jack Crawford was the first player here to win the title four times. He did so in 1931, 1932, 1933 and 1935. His exquisite style of play is credited by many to have transformed the sport here.
Another maverick player who took the event by storm was Roy Emerson. His debut may have been less than perfect in 1954 but once the agile player at six feet plus began winning, none could halt his charge. 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967 belonged to this Australian.
Interjecting between many more talents who displayed their prowess here, was another who answered to the name of Rod Laver. His back-hands were legendary and it gave him the title in 1960, 1962 and 1969.
In the women's category, Daphne Akhurst, Joan Hartigan and Nancye Wynne Bolton dominated here in the 1920s and 30s. Margaret Court however was one who truly achieved what no player has here. She won in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1973. When she finally lost to Martina Navratilova in 1975, she famously said: I have already achieved all that I dreamt.
Recent heartbreak and more recent glory
Monica Seles and Steffi Graf had a rivalry that almost cost one of them her life. Seles won the Australian Open in 1991 and 1992. Graff was the previous champion in the years 1988 and 1989. A fanatic fan of the German stabbed Seles in Hamburg in April 1993 and she was rendered out of action. She however, made a heroic comeback Down Under in 1996, taking the title.
Martina Hingis was another player who etched her name in the record books, winning the title in 1997 at 16 years of age.
Serena Williams in recent years, has been a stand-out performer with wins in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the other end of the court, have been gunning at each other for some time now.
Attendance goes sky-high
The Melbourne Park was constructed in 1987 to meet with the rising number of fans wanting to watch the match live. Despite TV rights, the number has gone up steadily with over 250,000 spectators coming in to watch the matches here, the same year. The numbers have kept increasing since. 653,860 people watched the event in 2010.