I’ve been adding major events of the 80s and 90s for three weeks, but I won’t attach descriptions of Aussie Open tournaments of years 1980-1987… Australian Open over twenty years of the Open era was a “second league” major, it has changed in 1988 when the tournament was shifted from grass courts at Kooyong to hard-courts at Flinders Park. Many top players had been omitting Australian Open before the ’88 season, we can assume that legends like Bjorn Borg or John McEnroe might have won more major titles if Australian Open had had a prestige of the current times. Enough to say, Borg appeared at the Australian Open just once, in 1973 as a 17-year-old player, seeking points and money wherever. One year later he was already a Roland Garros champion and didn’t bother tripping to Australia to play on a verge of two seasons, there were editions when the final was held on January 1! Actually all best Europeans didn’t like to play in Australia in the 70s due to various reasons (low prize money and inconvenient date, among the most significant ones), the tournament was almost entirely an internal affair of Australian & American guys. McEnroe played in Melbourne for the first time in 1983, and in some sense it was the first edition of the tournament that a value of the draw was similar to other three majors; came that year to Melbourne also second best player in the world at the time, Ivan Lendl, who had skipped the tournament in years 1981-82 being a foreseeable title contender. Although there were more players in the draw since 1983 (increased from 56 to 96), winning Australian Open was an easier task to do in comparison to Paris, London or New York, because 32 seeded players had a ‘bye’ in the first round, so a seeded champion had to win six matches, not seven as in other majors. I guess it’s worth mentioning a funny pattern of winning two consecutive Australian Open titles in the 80s, before losing to a new champion:
Johan Kriek – champion 1981-82 (lost in quarterfinals ’83 to Wilander, 15-match winning streak) Mats Wilander – champion 1983-84 (lost in the final ’85 to Edberg, 17-match winning streak) Stefan Edberg – champion 1985 & 87 (lost in semifinals ’88 to Wilander, 17-match winning streak)
Below a compilation of finals 1980-1987, all articles written for the New York Times
(my remarks in blue)
After losing in four consecutive final matches in the last two months, Brian Teacher of the United States finally prevailed today, capturing the $350,000 Australian Open tennis championship with a 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over a weary Kim Warwick. The 26-year-old American scored his first victory in a Grand Slam event (his 4th title) and earned the biggest pay check of his career, $50,000. He brought his total earnings for the year to more than $200,000. Before facing Teacher today, Warwick, an Australian, was forced to complete a semifinal match against the top seeded Guillermo Vilas of Argentina. The match had been interrupted by darkness yesterday. Warwick outlasted Vilas, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. Then, after the final, Warwick and his countryman, Mark Edmondson, combined to beat fellow Australians Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee, the Wimbledon doubles champions, 7-5, 6-4, in the doubles final. Teacher, who had lost singles finals in Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong and Sydney recently, said he came to the Australian Open not expecting to do so well. ”Until today, I didn’t think I would ever win a Grand Slam tournament,” he said. ‘‘Possibly I felt I really would like to win the tournament and I was pretty determined to fight the whole way. Winning now will give me a lot of confidence.” Warwick struggled through the singles final with a shoulder injury that had been getting progressively worse in recent days. He took a pain-killing injection before the doubles final. During the break between the semifinal against Vilas and the final, he was given ultrasound treatment and used ice and hot liniment. Warwick said that his shoulder hurt during the final when he hit backhands and smashes and when he was serving. ”I don’t want to use it as an excuse, I probably wouldn’t have won anyhow,” Warwick said. He said that when he woke up today, he found he could not even raise his right arm. ‘‘I couldn’t pick up a cup of tea,” he said. He said he did not consider having a painkiller before the singles final. In the second-set tiebreaker, with the score tied at 4:4, Warwick served what appeared to be clean ace. But the center linesman called it a fault and the central umpire agreed. The crowd booed and Warwick protested the decision. As the din from the crowd grew louder, the linesman changed his call and the central umpire ruled 5:4 in Warwick’s favor. Teacher then challenged the ruling and, after a lengthy discussion, Warwick agreed to play a let. The Australian lost the point and the following 2 points to lose the tiebreaker, 7-4. A sour note was struck earlier when the crowd booed Vilas after his loss to Warwick in the semifinal. The fans, who always had been appreciative of Vilas’s style of play, apparently were upset because he chose not to give an on-court interview. Vilas said later that ”he felt sorry” for the crowd and did not regard the booing as a proper gesture for a departing defending champion. Teacher did not try to defend his title in 1981, he lost in quarterfinals 1982.
Johan Kriek became the first South African to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament when he defeated Steve Denton of the United States, 6-2, 7-6(1), 6-7(1), 6-4, in the final of the $400,000 Australian Open today. Kriek needed eight match points before earning his biggest check, $64,000; Denton, who has jumped 360 spots to 54th in the world ranking in the last year, won $32,000. ”It’s incredible for a guy to come back and win seven match points – it shows he’s not just a great doubles player,” Kriek said of his rival, who has been known more for his doubles rather than singles play. Kriek said he had been working hard with his Australian coach, Bob Brett, between last week’s New South Wales Open and this tournament, which, with the French, Wimbledon and the United States Open, makes up the Grand Slam series. ”He’s really done a great job, and it’s good to have someone like him to keep your confidence up.” Although he reached the quarterfinals of the United States Open three years ago, when he was barely out of the junior ranks, Kriek described today’s victory as far more satisfying. The final was marked by exemplary behavior by both players, a contrast to many earlier matches, in which heated arguments broke out over line calls. Kriek took control early, but Denton, with a more powerful serve, fought back into the match. Kriek looked certain to win in straight sets when he broke the Texan. Denton saved four match points, and broke serve in the 9th game. Kriek succumbed, 7-1, in the tiebreaker after taking the opening point. In the fourth set, Kriek broke in the seventh game, held and went to match point on Denton’s next serve. But Denton saved two match points, then held to 4:5. Kriek held another match point at 40/30, and Denton saved that one before yielding. Denton became the first man in the Open era to win four 5-setters within a major, later on this feat repeated: Todd Martin (Wimbledon ’94), Albert Costa (Roland Garros ’03) & Marat Safin (Australian Open ’04).
Johan Kriek retained his Australian Open singles title today by routing Steve Denton of the United States, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Kriek swamped the Texan in 100 minutes and became only the third player to win consecutive Australian championships. Kriek, who was seeded first, won $72,000 in the $450,000 tournament, and Denton, seeded second, won $36,000. It was a rematch of the final last year, won by Kriek in four sets. In the semifinals, Kriek, a native South African who recently became an American citizen, survived a match point in defeating Paul McNamee of Australia, 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-5. Denton was also extended, beating a fellow American, Hank Pfister, by 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. In winning his semifinal match, Denton was down, 3:5 in the final set in 105-degree heat but rallied to pull out the match. He thus won enough Grand Prix points to bump Gene Mayer for a spot in the 12-player Volvo Masters scheduled next month at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Mayer chose not to play here. Steve Denton is the only player in history to participate in two major finals, not winning a title in his career (0-6 record in finals)! Kriek never played at the Australian Open before winning the tournament in years 1981-82, but to be precise, both finals he won in 1982 (January and December). The two Aussie Open titles have No. 4 and 7 in Kriek’s career.
Mats Wilander‘s 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ivan Lendl in the Australian Open final today represented a new level for the 19-year-old Swede and continued frustration for the 23-year- old Czechoslovak. Wilander surprised everyone with his dramatically improved grass-court play in the Grand Slam event. He beat John McEnroe, widely considered the world’s best grass player, in the semifinals, then had little trouble dispatching Lendl. The three other Slam championships have been won this year by Yannick Noah (French Open), John McEnroe (Wimbledon) and Jimmy Connors (United States Open). In addition to winning the tournament’s first prize of $77,500, Wilander captured the yearlong Volvo Grand Prix title, beating out Lendl and collecting a $600,000 prize. Lendl, who had led the Grand Prix point standing going into the tournament, got $33,800 and $400,000 as runner-up. But he failed again in a bid for his first Slam title; he has been a losing finalist four times. ”I came here with a mission – to try and win the Grand Prix,” said Lendl. ”I thought that making the semis should be good enough to beat McEnroe for first place. I did better than that, but it never entered my mind that Mats could win the tournament.” The manner of his loss to Wilander revived doubts about Lendl’s temperament in important matches. He appeared to lose some heart when the unemotional Swede went to a 3:1 lead in the first set. Although Lendl recovered to go ahead, 4:2, in the second set, he lost his vaunted serve with two double faults, and his game seemed to wilt. He had no answer to Wilander’s accurate and versatile double-handed backhand, and over the last part of the match often smiled in resignation at the Swede’s winners. ”I knew it was going to depend on how I served and volleyed, and most of the time, when I tried to come to the net, I just wasn’t able to,” said Lendl. Wilander used the event as preparation for the 1983 Davis Cup final between Australia and Sweden, which will open here Dec. 26 (Australia won 3-2). His only previous Slam title was the 1982 French on clay. This was the first time two Europeans had contested the Australian final, and Wilander is the first title holder from the Continent since Jean Borotra of France in 1928. Wilander remains the youngest Australian Open champion since 1983, he was 19 years, 3 months then.
Mats Wilander, formerly known as a clay-court specialist, wore down Kevin Curren, 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2, today and retained the men’s singles title at the Australian Open tennis championships on grass at Kooyong. It was the Swede’s third Grand Slam tournament title over all. “I’ve certainly changed my attitude to grass,” said Wilander. ‘‘I know I can play pretty well on it now, and my serve is effective because I keep it fairly low.” The 20-year-old Wilander, as usual, played a solid game, but had to battle nearly three hours to down Curren, who was in his first Grand Slam tournament final. The winner got $100,000 and the loser $49,677. Curren, seemingly not bothered by an ailing ankle, served well but wilted in the face of Wilander’s consistency and return of serve, especially in the fourth set. The Swede’s low, dipping returns forced him into numerous volleying errors. The 26-year-old South African, who lives in Austin, Tex., had been seeded ninth and Wilander second. The only time he felt in danger, Wilander said, was in the third set, when Curren served at 5:3. “‘I lost control a little, and when he served for the set, I thought I was in trouble,” he said. ”But after the tiebreaker, I thought I should win it. I don’t think he served as well after the first set.” Wilander, who beat Ivan Lendl in last year’s final, will go home to lead his country against the United States in the Davis Cup final in Göteborg beginning next Sunday. The first set was tight, with both players unable to convert break points. The set, which lasted 52 minutes, went with serve to 6:6. Wilander raced to a 4:0 lead in the tiebreaker, but Curren fought back to take it, 7-5. Wilander, impassive as always, then began to make his move. His maxim is, ‘‘It’s better to end the match well than start it well,” and he did end stronger. He broke Curren in the third game of the second set and went on to take the set in 34 minutes. There still had been only one service break in the match. The third set was a different story. There were six breaks, but it still went to a tiebreaker after Curren had served for the set at 5:3 with new balls and failed to take his opportunity. This time, Wilander made no mistake in capturing the tiebreaker, 7-3. He got the break in the fourth game of the fourth set, and broke again in the eighth game to seal the outcome. Pat Cash, Australia’s No. 1 player, was fined $2,000 for abuse of an official during the tournament. 1983-84 triumphs – Wilander’s 13th and 16th title.
Stefan Edberg of Sweden captured his first Grand Slam title by defeating his countryman, Mats Wilander, in the men’s singles final of the $1.5 million Australian Tennis Open Championships. The 19-year-old Edberg beat the the defending champion Wilander, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, on the grass courts at Kooyong in 93 minutes, after a rain-delayed start. For the victory, the fifth-seeded Edberg collected $100,000. He also became one of the youngest players to win the Australian Open. Ken Rosewall, at 18, was the youngest (in 1953). Wilander received $50,000. Edberg, the only player to capture the junior boys’ title in all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year, outplayed his more experienced rival for most of the match and stopped Wilander from winning his third consecutive Australian Open. ”This has been one of my greatest tournments ever,” Edberg said after his victory. ‘‘I’ve never been so happy in my life.” Wilander, who was seeded second, congratulated Edberg on his victory, saying: ”If there’s somebody I don’t mind very much to lose to, it’s Stefan. He’s a very good friend.” The last time the two met in a tourney final, Wilander defeated Edberg to capture the Swedish Open in July. Edberg broke Wilander in the 10th game of the opening set, the third game of the second and then the third and ninth of the third set to clinch the title. The men’s final, had originally been scheduled to be played Sunday but was delayed by torrential rain. Wilander appeared edgy early in the match, despite serving more aces than his teen-age opponent. In the second game of the opening set, Wilander requested that officials check the height of the net. In the next game, Wilander requested that a center-line umpire be told to remove his jacket as the sun was reflecting off the official’s buttons. The Swedes were to fly home tonight for a few days rest before heading to Munich for the Davis Cup final against West Germany. Edberg’s victory meant the four Grand Slam men’s singles titles were won by four different players. Wilander captured the French Open, Boris Becker of West Germany won Wimbledon and Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia took the United States Open. Monday was the 10th straight year that a foreign player has won the Australian Open – the last Australian champion being Mark Edmondson in 1976. Edberg reached the men’s final by upsetting top-seeded Lendl in the semifinal, 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7. Edberg was far steadier than Lendl in the decisive fifth set. “I don’t think I’ve ever played so well in such an important match,” Edberg said. “I haven’t played as well as I played in the fifth set for a long, long time.” In the fourth round, the Swede saved two match points against Wally Masur trailing two-sets-to-love.
The farewell of Kooyong, tournament switches from December to Janaury. Stefan Edberg of Sweden held off a comeback by Pat Cash of Australia to win his second straight Australian Open men’s singles title today. The 21-year-old Edberg earned the second Grand Slam title of his career with a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3 victory. He won the first two sets with flawless serving but then allowed Cash, playing in his first Grand Slam final, to fight his way back into the match. Edberg, seeded No. 4, regained his composure in the final set, broke for a 4:2 lead, then won the match despite Cash staving off 3 match points in the next-to-last game. The 3-hour-40-minute match was a measure of revenge for a straight-set loss Edberg suffered to Cash last month in the opening match of the Davis Cup final (11-13, 11-13, 4-6 on the same court), which Australia went on to win, 3-2. Cash, also 21, was trying to become the first Australian man to win a Grand Slam event since Mark Edmondson captured the Australian Open in 1976. Edberg earned $103,875, while Cash got $51,938. Edberg said his attitude had helped him successfully defend the title. ”I’ve been really relaxed and hardly felt any pressure,” he said. ”It was a very gutsy performance today, probably one of my best matches. To win a Grand Slam in five sets takes a lot of effort.” Both players agreed that the turning point of the match came when Cash led by 5:1 in the fourth set but allowed Edberg to come back and even the set at 5:5. Although Cash eventually won the set, Edberg’s comeback renewed his confidence. ”He had control of the match totally,” Edberg said. ”He let me off the hook.” Cash concurred: ‘‘If I’d won the fourth set 6-1, I would have won the match,” he said. ”I was on a roll and should have finished him off before he got his momentum back.” Cash was badly let down by his serve. He served 12 double faults in the match, including three in a row in the fourth set. Edberg served with tremendous power and accuracy in the first two sets, during which he dropped only 9 points on serve. One break of serve in each was enough to give a two-set lead. Cash then fought his way back into the match. He rallied to lead by 3:1 in the third set and held on to win it despite a subsequent exchange of service breaks. Cash broke again at the start of the fourth set. He then raced into the 5:1 lead, allowed Edberg to rally, but then broke again for the set. Edberg, whose temperament often has been questioned, then kept his nerve better in the decisive set. When Edberg broke for 4:2, Cash hit a ball angrily in the direction of the crowd and was given a code-of-conduct warning for ball abuse by Umpire Jeremy Shales. Despite staving off 3 match points two games later, Cash was unable to stop the resurgent Edberg from holding serve for the match and the title. The victory lifted Edberg’s world ranking from fifth to third, while Cash improved his ranking from 24th to 13th. Cash found much with which to console himself. He was ranked 418th in the world midway through 1986, but has been a player reborn since conquering a persistent back injury that threatened his career. “I was very happy about the way I played,” he said. “I’ve proved I can come up. That’s what champions have got to do, come up week after week, and I think I can do it now.” Edberg in Melbourne, won his titles No. 6 & 10, they were separated by 13 months (December ’85, January ’87).