David Cox looks at some of the greatest female Australian Open champions in the Open era.
Court won 11 Australian Open singles titles in all, an incredible haul which will almost certainly never be bettered and although seven of those came before the Open Era, she continued her success after turning professional. Court triumphed from 1969-1971, sweeping the majors in the process in 1970 before returning after the birth of her first child to win the tournament for the last time in 1973.
Fraulein Forehand was almost unbeatable in the last ‘80s and that was as much the case in Australia as anywhere else. She won her first title in 1988, defeating Chris Evert in the American’s 34 th and last Grand Slam final and going on to win the ‘Golden Slam’ that year – a very special feat which involves winning all four majors and Olympic gold in the same season. And in 1989 she made it five consecutive major victories by defending her title against Czech Helena Sukova despite on-court temperatures rising to 38 degrees Celsius. Graf made it three titles in a row in 1990 and although her dominance was halted by the emergence of her great rival Monica Seles, she hit back to win a fourth title in 1994, inflicting a 6-2, 6-0 battering on Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the shortest final in Australian Open history.
Seles equalled Graf’s record of four Australian Open titles in the mid ‘90s and heralded the emergence of a new breed of power hitters in women’s tennis. She won the tournament at her first attempt in 1991, dropping just one set along the way and continued to dominate in 1992 and 1993, beating Graf in the final that year. But her streak was halted in the most harrowing of circumstances as a fanatical Graf fan raced on to court during the change of ends at a tournament in Hamburg in April ’93 and stabbed Seles in the back. It took the American almost three years to recover from the physical and psychological scars but incredibly, she won the Australian Open again on her comeback in 1996, one of the most amazing stories in the tournament’s history.
It took Serena more attempts to win the Australian Open than any other of the four majors but once she got a taste for success down under, there was no stopping her and she’s achieved a phenomenal amount in the past decade, winning the title five times, the most anyone has managed in the Open Era. His very first triumph was historic as she defeated her sister in the 2003 final to achieve the ‘Serena Slam,’ becoming one of a handful of players to hold all four majors at the same time.
Serena has often won the Australian Open despite being completely written off before the tournament begins. In 2007 all the talk was about her ballooning weight and the fact her ranking had slipped down to 81 but Serena made a mockery of the critics by annihilating Maria Sharapova in the final.
David Cox writes for Live-Tennis.com, an award-winning tennis, news and live stream website.