In my lifetime the Australian Open has changed its location and timing more than any other Grand Slam tournament. Sometimes it was played in January, sometimes in December and sometimes as separate Men’s and Women’s tournaments. Long regarded as the poor cousin of the Grand Slam quartet, the Australian Open has grown in prestige since moving to its from the grass courts of Kooyong to the Rebound Ace courts of its permanent home of Flinders, now Melbourne Park in January 1988.
Known as the ‘Happy Slam’, the Australian Open has not been friendly to Australian players: the last Australian singles’ champions were Christine O’ Neil in 1978 and Mark Edmondson in 1976. Lleyton Hewitt was the last homegrown Men’s finalist in 2005 and Wendy Turnbull the last Australian Women’s finalist in 1980. The last two weeks of January in Melbourne see the city galvanised by the tournament and its associated activities.