In all major sports, there are tournaments and competitions which define the very sports themselves, and which manage to capture the hearts and minds of fans from all over the globe on an annual basis.
In the world of tennis, the Australian Open is one of them, combining as it does a sense of tradition for the game’s roots and an ultra-modern spectacle that highlights the speed, the passion and the grace of this wonderful game.
The year’s first Grand Slam event is often the most exciting, with fast, powerful rallies being needed to win points at crucial stages of matches. Although many people look to Wimbledon as the oldest and most historic tournament, the Australian Open also has a long history, dating back to the first event which was held way back in 1905.
The tournament has been held in a number of venues, including Perth, Sydney and Brisbane (and even a couple of New Zealand venues as well), but these days it’s associated with the beautiful city of Melbourne. In the 1980s, organizers decided to host the event in the same city every year, selecting Melbourne partly because they knew the attendances would be high; they’ve never looked back since then.
Lucrative prize money
The Australian Open offers the highest amount of prize money for any tennis tournament in the world, with A$26 million being distributed in 2012. The two singles champions, Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, each received a lucrative winner’s purse of A$2.3 million as well as the prestigious trophies that are on offer every year.
In recent years, many of the sport’s true legends have won the Australian Open. From the USA, there have been victories for Andre Agassi (4 wins), Pete Sampras (2) and Jim Courier (2). In the women’s championship, Serena Williams has won five titles, although it may comes as a surprise to discover her sister Venus is yet to win the Australian Open.
Other winners from around the world include Roger Federer (Switzerland, 4), Boris Becker (Germany, 2) and Mats Wilander (Sweden, 3). For the women, there were Martina Hingis (Switzerland, 3), Monica Seles (Yugoslavia/USA, 4) and Steffi Graf (Germany, 3).
The Australian Open isn’t always about the big names, however. The fast courts and the fact that it’s staged early in the year often lead to surprise winners. One of the features of the tournament is the weather.
The Melbourne sun can be particularly intense, and these days the organizers can close the roof and play matches indoors if necessary. If you’re a fan of tennis and have seen the Grand Slam tournaments in France, the USA and Wimbledon, then it’s high time you completed the set and visited Australia.
The combination of a beautiful city, stunning weather and exciting tennis is surely too good to turn down.