From humble beginnings
The first tennis tournament ever played in Australia was held in January 1880, on the courts of the Melbourne Cricket Club, built two years earlier. It was called the Championship of the Colony of Victoria, and was won by A.F.Robinson. For the next 20 or so years, tennis grew in popularity around Australia, particularly amongst the well-to-do.
In 1900, the British Isles and the USA had played off for the trophy now known as the Davis Cup. By 1904, the competition had expanded to include Austria, Belgium and France, and many considered that it was time Australia also mounted a challenge. To do this, Australia required a national body, and at a meeting of state representatives in September that year, it was agreed to form the Australasian Lawn Tennis Association, taking in the interests of both Australia and New Zealand. The ALTA would have three main functions: to organise the Davis Cup challenge; to control interstate matches; and to run the annual Australasian Tennis Championships. So, Australia's great Davis Cup tradition, and the Australian Open, were born.
In 1905, Australasia launched its first assault on the Davis Cup, fielding a team consisting of Alf Dunlop, Norman Brookes and New Zealand's Anthony Wilding. The trio lost to the USA in the second round. The wait for success did not last long though. In 1907, the great pair of Brookes and Wilding captured the first of Australia's 27 Davis Cup crowns, and did not relinquish their grip on the trophy until 1912.
1907 also marked the year that Brookes won the first of two Wimbledon titles, becoming the first male from outside of Britain to win The Championships. He was the first of 12 Australian men to take the Wimbledon singles crown, Lleyton Hewitt's triumph in 2002 making him the most recent.
Australia's women did not taste success at Wimbledon until 1963, when Margaret Court (nee Smith) won the first of her three titles. Evonne Cawley (nee Goolagong) is the only other Australian female to have held aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish, having won the coveted title in 1971.
Of all the Grand Slam events, Australians have easily experienced the most success at our home tournament, the Australian Open. Australian men have won the singles title on 51 occasions, whilst Aussie girls have accounted for 43 of the women's titles. Recently, however, success has not been so forthcoming- this country has not seen a singles champion since Chris O'Neil won the women's in 1978.