The history of tennis in Australia begins nearly 150 years ago. The exact timelines are difficult to confirm and rely heavily on newspaper articles published at that time. However it would appear that tennis spread rapidly throughout Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Adelaide from its introduction in 1875 when the first tennis court was constructed in Hobart and the first English professional arrived on Australian soil.
The first tennis tournament played in Australia was in January, 1880 at the Melbourne Cricket Club and was named the “Championship of the Colony of Victoria”. This later became known simply as the “Championship of Victoria”.
Norman Brookes was not only the first Australian to win Wimbledon back in 1907 but also the first left handed player to do so. Brookes along with his New Zealand partner Anthony Wilding won the Davis Cup Doubles event that same year and successfully defended their crown in 1908,1909 and 1911 (there was no Davis Cup challenge in 1910). Brookes also won Wimbledon again in 1914.
Until the mid 1920’s, most tennis racquets used in Australia were imported from the USA or England. The first racquets made in Australia began appearing around this time and by the 1930’s Australian made racquets were now being exported to these same countries. Naturally the grizzling soon started as the Australian made equipment began eating into the market share of their northern hemisphere competitors.
The Golden Age
The 1960’s are quite rightly referred to as the “golden age” for Australian men’s tennis. At least one grand slam event during this decade was won by an Australian player. The list of greats includes: Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Ken Rosewall, Fred Stolle and Rod Laver. During the 1960’s “Rocket” Rod Laver achieved the “grand slam” twice.
Women’s tennis in Australia also has its share of top international stars. The first women’s team to travel overseas did not do so until 1925. In those days they received no funding from the ALTA for their tour and had to rely on private fundraising. Daphne Akhurst was part of those early tours and in 1928 was ranked third in the world by Ayres’ Almanac. Since 1934 the winner of Australian Open women’s singles is presented with the “Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup”. The greatest Australian women’s tennis player of all time would have to be the “Aussie Amazon”, Margaret Court. From 1960 to 1973 she absolutely dominated women’s tennis. Her list of accomplishments includes winning 24 singles majors putting her ahead of Steffi Graf with 22 and Serena Williams with 21.
The Australian Open
The history of Australian tennis would not be complete without a mention of the Australian Open. Originally called “The Australasian Championships”, then in 1927 “The Australian Championships” and finally in 1969 it was renamed to “The Australian Open”. It did not attract foreign players until 1946 when air travel made it practical for these players to attend. Originally played on grass, since 1988 it has been played on hard courts.
Melbourne became its permanent home 1972. Prior to that, whilst it was mostly played in Melbourne, it has also been hosted in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. It has even been hosted twice in New Zealand during the early 1900’s.
Australian has a rich tennis history that goes back nearly 150 years. The success and popularity of the Australian game remains strong with new stories emerging every year.
Australian tennis steeped in a rich history. If you like the idea about becoming involved in one of the country’s most loved sports then why not organise private lessons with North Sydney Tennis & Gym.
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