The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, taking place from mid to late January in Melbourne. Dubbed today as the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific, the event’s history dates back over a century.
The first official Australian Open—then called the Australasian Men’s Championships—took place in 1905 at the Warehouseman’s Cricket Club in Melbourne. In a 17-player field, Rodney Heath edged Arthur Curtis to take the inaugural title.
The event moved from Melbourne to Christchurch, New Zealand the following year. The relocation wasn’t permanent, but it was a sign of things to come. In later years, the tournament would be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Christchurch and Hastings. In 1982, the Open finally settled in a firm location, the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Melbourne.
The name of the tournament was also in flux. In 1927, the Australasian Men’s Championships became the Australian Championships, and it wasn’t until 1969 that the event would have its present title, the Australian Open.
While the name and the venue were continually changing, the playing surface remained constant. In each of its stops, the Australian Open was played on grass, the predominant surface of the early to mid 20th century. That would change in 1988, when the Open left Kooyong for Melbourne Park.
With the new, larger facility came a very different type of court. In Melbourne Park, the Australian Open was held on Rebound Ace, a cushioned, hard surface. It remained so until 2008, when Rebound Ace gave way to Plexicushion, another type of hard court. The change in surface also ushered in a change in color: Blue replaced green.
Melbourne Park continued to improve itself throughout the 1990’s, making the tournament an even greater spectacle. The $65 million Hisense Arena (formerly known as the Vodafone Arena) opened at the turn of the century, giving the event a second roofed court. The main attraction of the facility, however, remains Centre Court, which was renamed Rod Laver Arena in 2000. The roofs keep out rain and heat—temperatures during the Australian Open regularly reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with on-court temperatures considerably higher. The tournament has a heat rule, and can suspend play around the grounds due to sweltering conditions.
The 2013 Australian Open will begin on January 14th.