Being a history buff, and trivia nerd, I really love it when I come across an article which combines both. When it comes to sports, I find the origins of a sport or an event very fascinating. Facts like the term Derby for horse racing derives from a contest founded by the Earl of Derby in the late 1700's, which stuck with the sport ever since. You know, stuff like that.
1. First Australian Open was actually played on a cricket field
In 1905, the Australian Open, then referred to as the Australasian Tennis Championships was conducted for the first time under the aegis of the Lawn tennis Association of Australia (presently called Tennis Australia) at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Ground in Melbourne. The place is now called the Albert Reserve Tennis Centre.
2. First Grand Slam to have a retractable roofing system
The fact that temperatures frequently rise over 40 degree Celsius necessitated Tennis Australia to take a call to install retractable roofing systems. The Rod Laver Arena was one of the first sporting arenas in the world to get a retractable roofing system way back in 1987.
3. Australia's scorching summer heat
The biggest hurdle for players competing in the Australian Open is the scorching Australian summer. The tournament is played in January when summer is at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere. Temperatures soaring above 40-degrees Celsius are quite common.
4. Unique instances which took place in 1977 and 1986
The Australian Open was conducted in January from inception in 1905 till 1919. It was moved to March in 1920. Between 1923 to 1976, it was played in August.
What is truly interesting is that due to scheduling issues coupled with climate vagaries, the Australian Open had to be played twice in 1977. It was played first from 3rd January to 9th January. then later that year, the tournament was again held from 19th December to 31st December.
The tournament was scheduled during mid-December until 1985. The authorities again decided to schedule the tournament in mid-January. This meant the tournament couldn't be held at all in the year 1986. From 1987 onward, the dates have been relatively the same with the tournament starting in the 2nd week of January every year.
5. Only Grand Slam to have been played in 2 countries
The Australian Open is not just the only Grand Slam to have been held twice in the same year (1977), it also holds the unique record of having been held at the most locations - 7 different cities including two different countries (Australia and New Zealand).
Sydney has played host on 14 occasions, Adelaide on 17 occasions, Brisbane in 7 different years, and Perth on 3 occasions. Christchurch and Hastings, both in New Zealand, were the hosts in 1906 and 1912 respectively.
Since 1972, the venue has been Melbourne. From 1972 to 1987, the tournament was played at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. In 1988, the tournament moved to Melbourne Park and along with that, a change of surface from grass to hard courts were also effected. With extensive renovation activities being carried out by the Government of Victoria, it looks unlikely that the Australian Open will be moved again any time in the near future.
I don't know about you, but I find little fun facts like these interesting. I think it makes me pay more attention and appreciate a sport or an event more. Shoot, it wasn't until I read up on the history of the Chicago Cubs that I became a fan, and found myself rooting for them as they broke their curse at the World Series. Which made that World Series the most special I have ever seen. What do you think? Do fun little facts like these bring more meaning to watching an event such as the Australian open? Is there a sport or an event you began watching after learning more about it?