Out of the four Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments that keep us glued to our idiot boxes every year, Australian Open kick starts the tennis mania each year in mid-January. It is played at the Melbourne Park (called Flinders Park during 1980s), a new ( Rebound Ace) Hardcourt venue next to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It’s origin can be traced to the grass courts at Kooyong in the city of Melbourne, where it was held for the first time in the year 1905 as The Australasian Championship. Top-ranked players sweat it out on the Melbourne hardcourts and compete for men’s and women’s singles competitions, men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles, and lastly, junior and master’s competitions.
Rod Laver Arena and Vodafone Arena with retractable roofs are the two chief courts used in this tournament. Held in the middle of the Australian summer, the Australian Open is renowned for its notoriously hot days. For Australian Open 2008, the Rebound Ace surface which has been in place for the past 20 years at Melbourne Park, has been replaced by a cushioned acrylic surface known as Plexicushion. The main benefits of this surface are better consistency and less retention of heat due to a thinner top layer. The overwhelming prize money for Australian open is AU$20,000,000. The four Grand Slam tournaments now offer equal prize money for the men’s and women’s champions, exemplifying gender equity. While the Men’s Singles winner is presented with the Norman Brookes (who was an Australian tennis champion and president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia) Challenge Cup, the Women’s Singles winner is presented with the Daphne Akhurst (an Australian tennis player who won the women’s singles title at the Australian Championships five times) Memorial Cup.
Australian open 2008 is witnessing the men’s top two seeds- The flawless Roger Federer and the young Rafael Nadal flexing their muscles and smashing the ball hard to come eyeball-to-eyeball in the finals. Making tennis arduous for the top two seeds are tough guys like- Aussie boy, Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko. In the women’s circuit- the William sisters, the Russian star, Maria Sharapova and the Belgian super sensation, Justin Henin, the gorgeous Ana Ivanovic, all are eyeing the Daphne Akhurst trophy with equal unyielding energy.
India at the Australian Open:
Sania Mirza is the only Indian hope in the singles edition at the Melbourne Park. She reached the third round in 2005 and lost to Serena Williams, her best performance so far. Mirza has again made it to the 3rd round, this time to challenge the elder William sibling, Venus. We at DUB Sports hope that by the time you read this Sania will rewrite history.
The ace double specialists Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati have both won a mixed doubleâ€™s title at Melbourne. Paes took the honours, in 2003 teaming up with the legendary Martina Navratilova and Bhupati in 2006 with the Swiss Miss Martina Hingis. However they are yet to bask in the glory of a Menâ€™s Double title at the Rod Lever Arena. At the sunset of their illustrative careers they are determined to go all out for the only Slam eluding their impressive record.
For the Record Books: –
# Ken Rosewall is both the youngest and oldest man to win the Menâ€™s Singles championship at the Australian Open. He won in 1953 at the age of 18 and again in 1972 at the age of 37.
# Martina Hingis became the youngest woman to win the Womenâ€™s Singles title at the Australian Open. She won in 1997, when she was just 16 years old.
# Andre Agassi has won the Australian Open a record four times.
# For the 2006 Australian Open, 45,000 Wilson tennis balls were used.
# Spectators at the 2007 Australian Open ate approximately 164,000 ice cream cones and 37,305 BBQ sausages.
# At the 2007 Australian Open, there were 361 umpires making the call.
# More than 300 ball boys and ball girls were hired to fetch balls at the 2007 Australian Open.