The Australian Open starts next week and there’s been a drought of 39 years since an Australian lifted a singles title at the event.
Chris O’Neill won the women’s singles way back in 1977.
It’s been an even longer drought in the men’s singles.
Mark Edmondson was our last male winner in 1976.
Since then, we’ve had six singles finalists – five in the men’s and one in the women’s events – but none have managed to lift the trophy.
But still, it’s a tournament where Australia has a proud history of success.
Over the years, 27 Australian men have won the singles title, including 12 who won it on multiple occasions, being Roy Emerson (6 times), Jack Crawford (4), Ken Rosewall (4), James Anderson (3), Rod Laver (3), Adrian Quist (3), John Bromwich (2), Ashley Cooper (2), Rodney Heath (2), John Newcombe (2), Frank Sedgman (2) and Pat O’Hara Wood (2).
In the women’s, 15 Australians have won the singles title, including nine that have won it more than once – being Margaret Court (11 times), Nancye Bolton (6), Daphne Cozens (5), Evonne Goolagong Cawley (4), Joan Bathurst (3), Coral Buttsworth (2), Thelma Long (2), Margaret Molesworth (2) and Mary Reitano (2).
Part of the reason for Australia’s lack of recent success is the fact that tennis is now a far more international game than it was in Australia’s glory years.
There are more great players from more countries around the world than there has ever been, and all of them now travel to play in the Australian Open. That wasn’t always the case when international travel wasn’t as easy as it is today.
Other factors for our lack of recent success are the drastic reduction in the number of tennis court facilities in Australia over the years, as well as the rise in popularity of other sports for Australian kids to play instead of tennis as they are growing up.
In this year’s event, the defending men’s singles champion is Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Although he’s already won the Australian Open title an incredible six times, he should still be highly motivated to win again in 2017 after losing his number one world ranking to Scotland’s Andy Murray late last year.
Djokovic and Murray are currently equal favourites with the bookmakers at $2.63. Then after a big gap, there’s Switzerland’s 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka at $13. Spain’s 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is also at $13.
Of the top-ranked Australians, Nick Kyrgios is at $34 and Bernard Tomic $101.
Krygios’ best result at the Australian Open so far has been reaching the quarter-finals in 2015, while Tomic reached the fourth round in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
In the women’s singles, newly crowned world number one Angelique Kerber (Germany) is the defending champion. Last year’s epic Australian Open final with American Serena Williams was her breakthrough event.
Williams is chasing her 23rd grand slam singles title, trying to go past the great German Steffi Graf into outright second on the all-time women’s singles list. Australia’s Margaret Court holds the record with 24 career singles titles.
Having won the Australian Open six times in her career, Williams is currently the favourite with the bookmakers at $3.50, followed by Kerber at $4.33. There is then a significant gap to Romania’s Simona Halep at $9.
Of the highest ranked Australian players, Daria Gavrilova is at $126 and Sam Stosur at $151.
Gavrilova hasn’t progressed past the first round in her only two Australian Open appearances so far, while Stosur’s best efforts were reaching the fourth round in both 2006 and 2010.
Who are your tips for the Australian Open men’s and women’s singles titles in 2017?