Technology Meets Tennis: The Australian Open Then and Now
Since the Australian Open was first held in 1905, plenty has changed in the world.
Technology and science have advanced at a rapid rate, offering us new approaches to many things in life.
Australian Open tennis has experience a huge amount of innovation over the years as a result of these advancements. Many of them have been game changers!
Let’s explore a few elements of the Australian Open we knew then - and see how it has evolved to become the Australian Open we know and love today.
Then: From 1905 to 1987 Australian Open tennis was played on grass courts. In fact, grass courts used to be very common as their softness is well matched to the human body. However, the high cost of upkeep and issues with rain saw their popularity decline.
Now: Since 1988 the Australian Open courts have been hard courts. Australia’s Plexicushion courts are acrylic topped and offer consistency in the bounce. Throw in a stadium with a roof that can be opened and closed - courts are now suitable for any weather conditions that Australia’s climate offers up.
Then: Pick up a tennis racquet back in the early 1900s and it would’ve been a wooden frame with strings made from animal guts… Wire strings came next and the laminated wooden frame racquets remained popular for close to 100 years. Steel and aluminium came next, but wood was still preferred by many.
Now: A few players still swear by natural gut strings, but most favour nylon or polyester synthetic racquet strings. Most tennis racquet frames today are made from graphite or carbon fibre composite materials. These are lighter and longer lasting, giving players the power to play a better game than ever before.
Then: The Australian Open used to be deemed too far away on the map, so right up until 1946 there were no international players!
Now: Fast forward to 2017 and the Australian Open is a highlight on the world tennis calendar with the best of the best flocking to our shores to compete.
Then: Until recent years, line-calling was 100% up to humans. Whether it was going to be a relatively insignificant point or a point to change the game, line-callers had to watch carefully and make the often-challenging decisions along with the chair umpire.
Now: The 2007 Australian Open was the first grand slam tournament to introduce Hawk-Eye in line-call challenges. The 2017 Australian Open will use Hawk-Eye for electronic reviews on many courts, including at Rod Laver, Hisense and Margaret Court Arenas. The Australian Open review system allows players three incorrect challenges each during a set, with an additional one in the event of a tiebreak. Watch Hawk-Eye in action in this video: