Come January and Australia is bustling with one sporting event after the other. While the cricket team normally hosts a test series and the F1 organizers are indulged in getting the track ready for the Australian Grand Prix, there is also the Australian Open in Melbourne which is usually held in the second half of January.
Earlier called the Australasian Championships and Australian Championships before it was named the Australian Open, it is the first Grand Slam of the year. The first Australian Open was contested on grass in 1905 and it has been played on the Plexicushion hard courts only since 1988. Mats Wilander is the only player to win the Australian Open on both the grass and hard-court surfaces. Held in the midsummer, the Australian Open has run into some extremely hot days due to which an Extreme Heat Policy is in place which allows play to be suspended if the heat reaches intolerable levels.
The Rod Laver Arena has been playing host to the Australian Open since 1988 after it replaced the Kooyong Stadium. Initially named the Flinders Park, the name was changed in 2000 to honour Rod Laver, the greatest Australian player of all time and the only player to win a Calendar Grand Slam (winning all Grand Slams in a calendar year).
One could be forgiven for mistaking the Albert Park as a tourist spot! Despite the heat levels, the Aussies have remained loyal to the Open. The attendances have been constantly increasing with the 2010 tournament having a record attendance of over 77000 in a single day.
Another Aussie great Roy Emerson holds the record for most Australian Open titles with 6 wins which includes a streak of 5 consecutive wins from 1963-67. In the Open Era, Federer along with Andre Agassi holds the record with 4 titles. Federer first won the title in 2004 before losing an epic semifinal to the eventual winner, Safin in 2005. He was unstoppable in 2006 and 07 and then beat Andy Murray in 2010 for his 4th title. When the 2011 season kicks off, there is no need of assurance that no one will be as hungry as Federer as he looks to claim his 5th Grand Slam Down Under and regain what has truly been his – the coveted No.1 ranking.