1) Big Players Skipping the Australian Open in the 70s & 80sBeginning in 1969, when the first Australian Open was held on the Milton Courts at Brisbane, the tournament was open to all players, including professionals who were not allowed to play the traditional circuit. Nevertheless, except for the 1969 and 1971 tournaments, many of the best players missed this championship until 1982, because of the remoteness, the inconvenient dates (around Christmas and New Year’s Day), and the low prize money.
2) Surface VariationThe Australian Open was played on faster Courts till 2007 (1905-1987 Grass & 1988-2007 Rebound Ace) before it was decided to use Plexi-Cushion from 2008. Players have traditionally found it difficult to adjust to the surface in Melbourne. Djokovic achieved the three peat in 2013 (champion in 2011, 2012, 2013) but no other player has been able to win it more than 2 times in a row in the Open Era. The other Grand Slams have seen players winning 5 consecutive times (Nadal at French Open, Borg/Federer at Wimbledon & Federer at US Open). Also since this is the first Grand Slam of the year, players are rusty and short on match practice and thus usually tend to struggle.
3) Question of MomentumThere is a gap of almost four months between the Australian Open and the French Open, whereas the other 3 Slams are spaced within 4 months of each other. Players do lose momentum after winning in Australia since such a big gap could often lead players losing thrust. Also after the Australian open, players tend to go to US to play on the outdoor hard courts in Indian Wells and Miami before coming back to Europe to participate on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome. These events are physically demanding and takes a huge toll on the players. Thus by the time, the big players are ready to compete at the French Open, they are perhaps stressed failing to recover in time. The plot above exemplifies the performance of the Australian Open Champions in the succeeding French Open. The Australian Open Champion has lost in the French Open finals 6 times in the Open Era (1978-Vilas, 1983-Wilander, 1993-Courier, 2006 & 2007-Federer, 2012-Djokovic). In the current era of tennis, where almost all tennis records have been broken and reset by the versatile trio of Roger, Rafa & Novak, the Australian – French double has yet to be achieved. The Big 3 account for almost 1/3 of the Grand Slam doubles achieved in the Open Era. Roger and Novak have entered the French Open 4 times as the Australian Open champion but have failed to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires (Novak enters this FO as the AO champion for the 5th time). Ironically, Rafa has been the best clay court player in history with 9 titles in Paris; but failed to win the French Open in 2009 when he entered as the Australian Open Champion (lost to Robin Soderling in 4 sets). Historically, faster court champions have failed to perform well at the French Open but with the likes of all court players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray you would have expected the Australian – French double to be achieved sometime in this era. Despite Djokovic not being able to make it this time around as he was stopped by an inspired Stan Wawrinka, many fancy the Serbian superstar to achieve this feat in the next couple of years or so.
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