This is the first installment in a series looking at the best performers at each Grand Slam event. I will look at the 10 best champions on the male and female sides of Open Era tennis and explain why they are ranked where they are in my eyes. Since this focuses on the Open Era, champions of prior eras will not be included. This list is the most straight forward of the 4 majors as the list lines up neatly with the players holding the most titles and reaching the most final rounds.
The Top 10 Male Australian Open Champions
- Novak Djokovic – Novak Djokovic is first on this list because he not only holds a record 5 Australian Open titles, but Novak’s game seems perfectly suited to Plexicushion. Djokovic won one of the greatest tennis matches ever by claiming the 2012 Australian Open title in a 5 set clash with Rafael Nadal. Novak has won 15 of 20 sets played in his 5 Australian Open championship victories. Djokovic’s Australian Open dominance is likely to continue.
- Roger Federer – Roger Federer holds 4 Australian Open crowns winning 3 titles on Rebound Ace and 1 title on Plexicushion. Roger Federer also reached the semifinal or better at every Australian Open from 2004-2014. His 2009 runner-up finish gives Federer one more finals appearance than the man in the 3rd position on this list.
- Andre Agassi – Andre Agassi won his first Aussie Open title in his 1995 tournament debut. Agassi would also win this title in 2000, 2001, and 2003. His style, like Djokovic’s, meshed quite well with a slower hard court surface. Andre Agassi’s fitness and return of serve helped him compile an awesome Autralian Open record. Agassi reaching one fewer Australian Open final than Roger Federer and skipping the event so frequently in his early career keep him from being tied for second.
- Mats Wilander – Mats could be argued to be tied with Federer and Agassi despite holding one fewer Australian Open crown. This is so because Wilander is the only player to win the Australian Open on both grass and hard courts. Wilander reached 4 Australian Open finals posting wins on grass over Ivan Lendl and Kevin Curren and a hard court victory over Pat Cash. Wilander is also the youngest Australian Open male champion. His unique accomplishments nearly force a tie with Agassi and Federer, but a fourth title does set them slightly apart from the steady and heady Swede.
- Stefan Edberg – Stefan Edberg played remarkably well on the slower bouncing hard courts of Melbourne despite not having an overwhelming serve. Edberg was runner-up at the Australian Open in 1990, 1992, and 1993. Had he not been injured in 1990, Edberg may have equalled Wilander’s feat of winning this event on both grass and hardcourts. Edberg’s 1991 and 1994 semifinal finishes gave him a 28-5 record over 5 years with no title to show for it. Edberg did win the Australian Open on grass in 1985 and 1987 by beating Mats Wilander and Pat Cash respectively. His 5 championship appearances on two different surfaces place Edberg above the other two-time Australian Open champions.
- Ivan Lendl – Ivan Lendl was runner-up at the 1983 Australian Open on grass. His best results came on Rebound Ace. Lendl won the title in 1989 and 1990. He was runner-up in 1991 and was a semifinalist in 1988. The first four years of hard court Australian Open play saw Lendl post a 25-2 record. Lendl reaching 4 finals in Australia including one on grass give him an edge over the remaining players on this list.
- Pete Sampras – Pistol Pete won this tournmanet in 1994 and 1997. His runner-up finish in 1995, and semifinal finishes in 1993 and 2000 make Pete a stellar performer down under. Pete also won a 5 set emotional war with Jim Courier at the 1995 Australian Open that is remembered as one of his finest moments as a competitor.
- Jim Courier – Speaking of Courier, the Floridian loved the Australian Open’s surface speed and hot conditions. Courier lost a 5 set clash with Stefan Edberg at the 1991 Australian Open that helped set up his breakthrough year. Courier would defeat Edberg in 4 sets to win both the 1992 and 1993 Australian Open crowns. Jim lost in the 1994 semifinal round to Pete Sampras in straight sets. In the 1995 quarterfinal round, Courier nearly ousted Sampras in a 5 set instant classic.
- John Newcombe – In the late 1970s, several players claimed Australian Open titles without being in the top tier of tennis. Newcombe won his 2 Australian Open titles in the early 1970s. Newcombe was the #2 player in the world in 1973 and claimed both the US and Australian Opens during that turbulent year on tour. Jimmy Connors dominated tennis in 1974, but Newcombe again finished #2 in the world. The two faced off in the first Grand Slam final of 1975 with Newcombe taking a tight 4 set match against the clear-cut world #1. Newcombe lost in the 1976 Australian Open final. His 1973-1976 run make Newcombe #9 on my list.
- Boris Becker – Boris Becker was never a consistent performer in Australia. Becker only reached the quarterfinal round or further in Australia on 3 occasions, but when Becker did so he tended to take the title. Boris Becker defeated Ivan Lendl in 1990 and Michael Chang in 1996 to win his two Australian Open titles.