|January 16 - 29, Melbourne, Australia|
In the world of professional tennis, a season that never really ends, there are actual breaks that delineate one year from the next. One could look at the calendar to see this as a numeric year change to 2012, or one could simply watch the tennis community get excited for the first major tournament of the year that begins this month. The tournament? The Australian Open played at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia. The reigning champions from 2011? Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Kim Clijsters of Belgium.
First known as the Australasian championships, it was renamed in 1927 to the Australian Championship, and then subsequently in 1969 to the Australian Open. This was originally a grass-court championship from 1905 -1987 much like Wimbledon in the UK. But in 1988, a change was made to a hard-court surface that lasted for 20 years until a cushioned, medium-paced, acrylic surface, similar to that used at the US Open, was chosen as a successor. The Open is played in the middle of the Australian summer, and this new surface has properties of less heat retention. Given the fact that Grand Slam tournaments require best 3 of 5 set matches (instead of the traditional 2 of 3) on the men's side, both Rod Laver and Hisense Arena feature retractable roofs to combat the Australian sun.
So while we are probably shoveling snow or at the very least buttoning our coats neck-high (remember I live on the east coast of the US), gather warm thoughts from the extreme heat and humidity experienced at the Australian Open which runs January 16 to the 29th. All the big names, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Wozniaki, Kvitova, and Sharapova will compete there. And since this is the first of the four Grand Slam tournaments of the year that include Wimbledon, and the French and US Opens, precedents may be set, on both the ATP men's and WTA ladies tours, that may dictate how 2012 will unfold.