The history of the Australian Championships (1969-1987)

by Karoly Mazak

 

Following the advent of open tennis in April 1968, the first edition of the Australian Open in 1969 is played in Brisbane, offering a prize money of 26,000 USD for men and 7,500 USD for women. These amounts lags behind those offered at the other three Grand Slam events, but are still large compared to other open events. For the men, it is the 8th highest paid event of the year, for the women the 6th. World No. 1 Rod Laver has a difficult semi-final against Tony Roche, winning eventually 7-5 22-20 9-11 1-6 6-3 in a sweltering afternoon where they put wet cabbage leaves in their hats to stay cool. In the final Laver defeats Andres Gimeno, who earlier put out World No. 3 Rosewall. Laver also wins the doubles with Roy Emerson. World No. 4 Margaret Smith Court wins her eighth title over defending champion and World No. 1 Moffitt King, and collects the doubles title with Judy Tegart as well.

In 1970 Australian Open is combined with the New South Wales Open, but the prize money is dropped to 12,000 and 2,000 USD for men and women, respectively. National Tennis League players, including defending champion Laver are absent. The Top 3 seeds all lose in the quarters, and it is World No. 6 Arthur Ashe, seeded 4th, who wins the final against Dick Crealy. World No. 1 Margaret Smith Court defends her ninth title against Kerry Melville, and once again wins the doubles with Judy Tegart Dalton. The entry field and prize money (28,000 and 5,000 USD for men and women, respectively) for the Dunlop New South Wales Open in Sydney in March eclipses that of the Australian Open two months ago. Laver defeats Rosewall, while Moffitt King overcomes Smith Court in the final of this particular event.

The Dunlop Australian Open is played in March 1971 in Sydney, where the tie-break is introduced but with the 12-point up with a two-points-lead ‘lingering death’ method. The men’s event is part of the WCT tour and offers 50,000 USD in prize money, that overshadows the 10,000 USD paid out to the women. The men’s entry field is excellent, but most of the top seeds lose early, and World No. 2 Ken Rosewall wins his third title beating defending champion Ashe. John Newcombe and Tony Roche win the doubles. World No. 1 Margaret Smith Court collects her tenth title, her sixth straight major, beating Goolagong 2-6 7-6(0) 7-5 after trailing 2-5 in the third set when Goolagong becomes hampered with cramps. Together they also win the doubles.

In 1972 the Australian Open is merged with the Victorian Open and is moved to a permanent base at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne. But prize money is reduced to 8,000 and 6,800 USD for men and women, respectively. Some WCT players participate in the tournament because it started the previous December and the ILTF ban on WCT players begins only in January. Veteran Mal Anderson surprisingly puts out World No. 1 Newcombe in the quarters. World No. 3 Ken Rosewall defends his fourth title beating Anderson in three sets, and also wins the doubles with Owen Davidson. Defending champion Smith Court is at home awaiting her first child. World No. 7 Virginia Wade surprisingly beats World No. 1 Evonne Goolagong in the final.

In 1973 the Australian Open becomes part of the Grand Prix for the first time. It is placed in category “A”, together with some other tournaments, below the other three Grand Slam events. Its less prominent status is also reflected in the prize money: 31,000 and 22,000 USD for men and women, respectively. World No. 6 John Newcombe finally wins his home title overcoming Onny Parun from New Zealand and also triumphs in the doubles with Mal Anderson. World No. 2 Margaret Smith Court, now as a mother, collects her eleventh title against World No. 4 Goolagong 6-4 7-5 and also the doubles with Wade. ATP computer rankings start in August 1973, and based on its prize money the Australian Open is relegated retrospectively to the fourth category, with the winner awarded 12 computer points (the winners of the other three Grand Slams got 50 computer points).

In 1974 the Australian Open is placed in Grand Prix category “B”, with a prize money of 42,000 USD for men. World No. 3 and Jimmy Connors defeats Phil Dent in four sets. The low prize money means the event is placed in the fifth ATP category only, the 40 ATP computer points Connors gets for his victory is exactly one third of the 120 points the winners of other Grand Slams get this year. There is no Grand Prix for women this year, and their prize money is 33,000 USD. Defending champion Smith Court is pregnant again, and World No. 4 Evonne Goolagong beats World No. 3 Chris Evert 7-6(5) 4-6 6-0.

In 1975 the Australian Open is placed in Grand Prix category “B”, with a prize money of 51,000 USD for men. World No. 2 John Newcombe reaches the final defeating in the semis his doubles partner Tony Roche 6-4 4-6 6-4 2-6 11-9 (saving 3 match points), and wins his second title against defending champion World No. 1 Jimmy Connors 7-5 3-6 6-4 7-6(7). The 60 ATP computer points Newcombe gets for his victory is exactly the half of the 120 points the winners of other Grand Slams get this year. There is no Grand Prix for women this year, and their prize money is 42,000 USD. World No. 3 Evonne Goolagong defends her title against Martina Navratilova.

In 1976 the Australian Open is placed in only the fifth Grand Prix category, with a prize money of 75,000 USD for men. Mark Edmondson, ranked only No. 212, wins his home title from a weak field beating defending champion John Newcombe. The 60 ATP computer points Emerson gets for his victory are overshadowed by the 140 points the winners of other Grand Slams get this year. The Grand Prix for women starts only in October this year, and their prize money is reduced to 30,000 USD. World No. 5 Evonne Goolagong Cawley wins her third title in a row against Renata Tomanova.

The January edition of the 1977 Australian Open (200,000 USD for men) is finally placed into the same Grand Prix and ATP computer point (140) category as the other three Grand Slam events. But the quality of the entry is rather weak, World No. 6 Vilas is the only Top 8 player in the draw, and he loses the final to World No. 10 Roscoe Tanner. The women’s event, with only 50,000 USD prize money, is put into the fourth Grand Prix category. Defending champion Goolagong Cawley is on maternity leave, in her absence World No. 8 Kerry Melville Reid at last wins her home title against Dianne Fromholtz.

The next edition of the Australian Open is moved forward to mid-December, resulting in a second tournament in the calendar year, also making it the last leg of the Grand Slam rather than the first. The prize money, Grand Prix and ATP computer point categories remain the same as in the January edition. The quality of the entry is once again rather weak, and World No. 5 Vitas Gerulaitis overcomes John Lloyd from Great Britain in five sets in the final. Evonne Goolagong Cawley returns after maternity leave and wins her fourth title against Helen Gourlay Cawley.

The prize money for men in the December 1978 edition of the Australian Open is further increased to 300,000 USD, putting it on paper in the top category alongside the other three slams. But World No. 3 Guillermo Vilas is the only Top 10 player in the draw, and wins the title from a weak field against John Marks. The women’s prize money is reduced to 35,000 USD, meaning that even the best Australian women are playing elsewhere in richer tournaments, so Chris O’Neil, ranked only No. 111, wins the title.

The 1979 Australian Open (350,000 USD) once again has a very weak field. World No. 6 Guillermo Vilas defends his title against American John Sadri. The women’s event (50,000 USD) is still only in the fourth Grand Prix category, and is won by World No. 68 Barbara Jordan.

In 1980 the women’s event at the Australian Open is played for the first time a month before the men’s, at the end of November. With a prize money of 200,000 USD, it is placed into the same Grand Prix category as the other three Grand Slams. Hana Mandlikova wins the final against Wendy Turnbull, who put out top-seeded Navaratilova in the semis. Thanks to her victory Mandlikova closes the year as World No. 4. At the men’s event (350,000 USD) Kim Warwick overcomes defending champ Vilas in the semis, but loses the final to Brian Teacher who finishes the year as World No. 12.

In 1981 the women’s event (200,000 USD) at the Australian Open is played once again weeks before the men’s. World No. 1 Chris Evert Lloyd beats defending champion Mandlikova in the quarters, but loses the final to World No. 3 Martina Navratilova 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5. Johan Kriek from South Africa wins the men’s event (400,000 USD) against American Steve Denton and finishes the year as World No. 13.

In 1982 the men’s event (450,000 USD) is also moved forward, and is played a week after the women’s event (350,000 USD), at the start of December. World No. 2 Chris Evert Lloyd beats defending champion Navratilova 6-3 2-6 6-3. Navratilova and Shriver win the doubles. Johan Kriek, now as a US citizen, defends his Australian title against Denton and finishes the year as once again as World No. 13.

In 1983 the men’s and women’s event are once again played concurrently and both offer a total prize money of 500,000 USD. World No. 4 Mats Wilander overcomes World No. 2 John McEnroe in the semis and wins the tournament beating World No. 1 Ivan Lendl in three sets. World No. 1 Martina Navratilova wins her second title over compatriot Kathy Jordan and also defends her doubles title with Shriver.

In 1984 World No. 4 Mats Wilander defends his title overcoming Kevin Curren 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(3) 6-2, who earlier put out World No. 1 Ivan Lendl. World No. 1 Martina Navratilova, with three of the Grand Slam titles in her satchel, reaches the semis but her compatriot Helena Sukova intervenes beating the defending champion 1-6 6-3 7-5 on the sixth match point. World No. 2 Chris Evert Lloyd wins her second title against Sukova. Navratilova and Shriver win their third doubles title in a row and they achieve the first women doubles Grand Slam.

In December 1985 World No. 6 Stefan Edberg wins the Australian title overcoming World No. 1 Lendl 6-7(3) 7-5 6-1 4-6 9-7 in the semis and World No. 3 defending champion Wilander in three sets in the final. World No. 1 Martina Navratilova wins her third title beating World No. 3 Mandlikova in the semis, then defending champion World No. 2 Chris Evert Lloyd 6-2 4-6 6-2. Navratilova and Shriver collect their fourth doubles title in a row.

The next edition of the Australian Open is moved to the end of January 1987 and is staged for the last time on grass at Kooyong Stadium. Pat Cash overcomes World No. 4 Yannick Noah in the quarters, then World No. 4 Ivan Lendl in the semis, but World No. 5 Stefan Edberg defends his title beating the Australian 6-3 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3. World No. 4 Hana Mandlikova wins her second title against defending champ Navratilova. Navratilova and Shriver win their fifth doubles title in a row.


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