1969-1979 (AO summary)

newcombe_aoLooking backward, Australian Open between years 1969 (first Open era edition) and 1988 is actually incomparable to other majors, however, that 19-year-period isn’t consolidated either. I’d divide it onto three different parts: the first one related to the initial Open era years when Australians were the best in the world, and despite lower, the same guys ruled Down Under as well as in other three majors. The second part is connected to the late 70s and early 80s when the Australian tennis declined and it opened the possibility of winning a Grand Slam tournament for very good players, who could have had a huge problem to do it in Paris, London or New York. Finally, the third part, which is the mid 80s, characterized by the will of vilas_ao78best players to participate, even though Australian Open still hadn’t a similar status to other Grand Slam events. John Newcombe was the main figure as far as the first part is concerned. In the years 1969-1976, he gained two titles (the second one featured two marathon 5th sets), once was beaten in the final, reached four quarterfinals (27-6 record overall). After 1976, he didn’t play again despite another three years on the tour. The biggest rival of the 70-icons (Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors), Argentinian Guillermo Vilas also lifted the trophy twice, taking an advantage of the lack of the Swede and the American in the draw when he became the champion. His triumphs are a bit surprising anyway because he was a clay-court specialist whereas the Australian Open was held on grass until 1988. [BTW, other clay-court specialist, Mats Wilander, triumphed at Kooyong twice in succession as well (1983-84); both Vilas and Wilander, never advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals though]Vilas compiled a 17-1 record in the 70s never being seriously threatened, excluding his final loss in 1977.

Champions (1969-1979):
2 – Ken Rosewall (1971-72), John Newcombe (1973, 75), Guillermo Vilas (1978-79)
1 – Rod Laver (1969), Arthur Ashe (1970), Jimmy Connors (1974), Mark Edmondson (1976), Roscoe Tanner & Vitas Gerulaitis (1977)
Curiosities (1969-1979):
* the 1968 edition was held in the pre-Open era (William Bowrey – the last amateur to win the Championships)
* all editions were played in Melbourne except first year (Brisbane 1969) and two following years (Sydney 1970-71) – everything on grass
* two editions in 1977 (January & December)!
* before 1974 there was a 48 draw (16 seeded players had “bye” in the first round), 1974-1979: 56 draw
* in 1970 & 1973-74, the first round was ‘best-of-three’ sets
* tie-breaks since 1971
* the best Europeans were very reluctant to play in the tournament: Tom Okker (appeared thrice 1969-71), Jan Kodes (never played), Ilie Nastase (played once… in 1981), Manuel Orantes (never played in the OE), barely once arrived Adriano Panatta (1969) & Bjorn Borg (1974);
* two best American players of the 70s, only a couple of times took part in: Stan Smith (1970, 76-77), Jimmy Connors (1974-75)
* unseeded champion: Mark Edmondson [1976] – beat five seeded players
* unseeded finalist: John Marks [1978]
* longest match: 4 hours 41 minutes – Dennis Ralston d. John Newcombe 19-17, 20-18, 4-6, 6-3 [1970]
* longest 5th set in terms of games – Dick Crealy d. Bob Giltinan 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 13-11 [1972]
* youngest player to participate: Stephen Myers, 16 years 11 months [1972]
* oldest player to participate: Frank Sedgman, 48 years 1 month [1976]

5 Responses to 1969-1979 (AO summary)

  1. Filippo says:
    Just a question.

    Why the trophy that Vilas is holding is slightly different from the trophy awarded to single mens championship today?

    I made an esquire on google and the picture you posted is within the result of “Vilas austalian open trophy).

    Do you know something about this trophy?

  2. Voo de Mar says:
    I suppose the trophy we all know is only for lifting, and the one in Vilas’ picture he could take home.
  3. Ann Connolly says:
    Tom Okker did not play Australian Open in 1969. Had to give walk over in first round due to illness/injury.

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