Like most American non-insomniacs, I didn’t see the match live, but apparently last night’s men’s semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco was one of the best matches in the history of the Australian Open. It was certainly the longest, at five hours and 14 minutes. Nadal won in five thrilling sets.
The Australian Open is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments (Wimbledon, French Open and U.S. Open being the others), and though time zones and international date lines make live viewing tricky for those of us in North America, the competition rarely disappoints.
The first Australian Open was played in 1905 at the Warehouseman's Cricket Ground in Melbourne. In the earliest years of the tournament, very few foreign players came because of Australia’s geographic remoteness (in the 1920s, it would take European players 45 days to get there by ship). In 1946, the U.S. Davis Cup players were the first to come by airplane.
Over the first several decades, the tournament was held in different cities all over Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, to name a few). In 1972 they decided to hold it in Melbourne every year, because the city drew the biggest crowds. It takes place in the middle of the Australian summer, which means some very hot days. This year, in fact, temperatures reached well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A couple times they had to close the roof of the stadium to protect the players from the oppressive heat.
This year’s final matches should be crowd-pleasers. The men’s final is this Sunday, with the classic matchup of Nadal against nemesis Roger Federer. On the women’s side, Serena Williams takes on Dinara Safina Saturday night local time.