Sport Tennis Australian Open Australian Open history: Photos that capture a tournament through time
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Australian Open history: Photos that capture a tournament through time

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The first Australian Open I covered was way back in 1990, just two years after the very first tournament at Melbourne Park.

Before then, the games used to be played on the grass at Kooyong. I’ve only missed 3 opens since 1990 – one in 2013 for the birth of my daughter, and the other two in 2016 and 2019.

Getty photographer Clive Brunskill in his element.

As Getty Images’ senior tennis photographer, I’ve had the privilege of covering multiple French Opens, US Open and Wimbledon tournaments.

I actually celebrated my 100th grand slam at the 2020 Australian Open last year.

Sadly I won’t be able to make it to the 2021 Australian Open – like many other foreign photographers and journalists, I was stopped by the pandemic.

But COVID-19 permitting, I will certainly be back, camera in hand for next year’s for AO.

Until then, here’s some of my favourite shots from over the years.

Pat Rafter v Tim Henman, Fourth round, Jan 2001

All the tennis fans out there will recognise where Pat got this move from – this shot captures Pat doing Aussie player Andrew Ilie’s trademark victory ritual. I have a signed photo of this at home from Pat, who wrote, ‘This is my favourite picture mate!’.

It’s one of my favourites, too. Tennis Australia presented Pat with this image when he retired from playing.

Rafael Nadal v Mikhail Youzhny: Second round, Jan 2005

This is a very young Rafa Nadal during his titanic five-set battle with Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.

I remember thinking as it was nearing match point, “This guy is going to do something amazing if he wins this”.

Based off this inkling alone, I quickly ran up to the catwalk and there we have it, Rafa fell flat on his back.

This was probably the first time he’d done this. Now it’s his signature.

Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer: The final, Feb 2009

This shot of Rafael Nadal, of Spain, and Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the trophy presentation is an emotional one for me.

The surprise win by Rafa threw everyone off guard – Roger had been the fan favourite given how much he idolised Rod Laver, who was set to present the trophy.

When Roger broke down crying, Rafa took the time to console him before making his speech. Incredibly, 12 years on, these two icons of the game now each have 20 slams to their names.

Andy Murray v Michael Llodra: Third round, Jan 2012

I remember I was in the catwalk of the Hisense Arena for this game and it was looking like a pretty standard game. Nothing much happening when, all of a sudden, Andy Murray somersaults on the court as he tried to reach a ball from Michael Llodra of France.

Again, a very different image.

Andy lost in the semi-final to Novak Djokovic.

Sam Groth v Thanasi Kokkinakis: Second round, Jan 2015

The Open is always filled with surprises, but the one constant is the amazing sunsets. This particular evening, during the Sam Groth versus Thanasi Kokkinakis game, I went up to the catwalk to shoot this general view seen over Hisense Arena.

I just loved the colours in the sky and the silver halogen floodlights.

Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic: Final, Feb 2015

This shot was only spotted in a second edit on the evening of Andy Murray’s loss to Novak Djokovic at the 2015 AO.

It tells the sad story of Andy’s five missed chances to lift the Norman Brookes. The heartache is clearly etched on his face as he watches Novak go to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

Andy Murray v Sam Querrey: Third round, Jan 2017

Rod Laver Arena is always blessed with amazing, hard late afternoon sun, which helps create very black, contrasting shadows seen here. Andy Murray serves in his third-round match against Sam Querrey.

Though Andy sadly missed his sixth final this year, I love this shot because it captures his tenacity and determination beautifully.

Grigor Dimitrov v Dennis Novak: First round, Jan 2018

You very rarely see a player play a shot after they have fallen down, and that’s why this photo is such a standout to me.

Grigor Dimitrov, of Bulgaria, attempted to do just that after falling to the floor in his first-round match against Dennis Novak, of Austria.

Serena Williams v Tamara Zidansek: Second round, Jan 2020

In the lead up to Serena preparing to serve, I noticed she had painted fingernails, of which one had a koala bear on it.

I used a 1000mm telephoto lens to shoot only what you see here in the frame.

This, for me, is something a little different.

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