Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s? - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old Dec 29th, 2017, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

I've been thinking about this lately as I notice that the best players in the world in the 70s (Chrissie, BJK, Martina, Wade) were mostly absent in these major tournaments, almost for the whole decade in the case of the AO (with the exception of 1973-1975) and from 1975 to roughly 1980 for RG (which is weird as it seemed it was quite important from the open era until that period).

So my question is, why did the top players skip these tournaments so much? Were they not considered important tournaments?

If so, then what were the other two big titles of the year apart from Wimbledon and the US Open? Seems to me that if such were the case, then these players should have a higher Slam count or at least an asterisk in their tally. Maybe their YEC titles should be added?
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old Jan 1st, 2018, 10:07 PM
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Re: Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

I think the Virginia Slims (briefly Avon) championship was considered the third part of a triple crown - W, USO, VS. After that the Colgate year end championships which didnít debut until fall 1976 followed by the Family Circle Cup in the spring. This roughly covers the time period from 1973 to 1979. When world team tennis disbanded at the end of 1978 the French and leading clay events had many more top name entrants in spring 1979. Austin beat Evert in the semis of the Italian that year over a field which included Goolagong, Wade and a few others. The Australian lagged a bit and didn't get top players until 1980 (Navratilova, Goolagong, Mandlikova, Turnbull). It basically joined the others as a top notch field in 1981 when Evert finally appeared nearly 8 years (!!) after her first and only appearance and Austin made her one and only appearance, never to go down under again. Evert didnít play 1983 and that lessened itís luster a bit, but by 1984 each and every slam had all the top players from that moment on. At certain points in the 70s it only seemed the Aussie or French were important if Margaret Court was winning a true slam (1970) or Bjorn Borg was chasing one with the first two titles under his belt, 1978-80. Jimmy Connors famously stated he would follow Bjorn to the ends of the earth (Oz) but only if BB won the third leg at flushing. Sadly he never did and the Aussie was always robbed of many top male players until roughly 1988.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2018, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

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I think the Virginia Slims (briefly Avon) championship was considered the third part of a triple crown - W, USO, VS. After that the Colgate year end championships which didnít debut until fall 1976 followed by the Family Circle Cup in the spring. This roughly covers the time period from 1973 to 1979. When world team tennis disbanded at the end of 1978 the French and leading clay events had many more top name entrants in spring 1979. Austin beat Evert in the semis of the Italian that year over a field which included Goolagong, Wade and a few others. The Australian lagged a bit and didn't get top players until 1980 (Navratilova, Goolagong, Mandlikova, Turnbull). It basically joined the others as a top notch field in 1981 when Evert finally appeared nearly 8 years (!!) after her first and only appearance and Austin made her one and only appearance, never to go down under again. Evert didnít play 1983 and that lessened itís luster a bit, but by 1984 each and every slam had all the top players from that moment on. At certain points in the 70s it only seemed the Aussie or French were important if Margaret Court was winning a true slam (1970) or Bjorn Borg was chasing one with the first two titles under his belt, 1978-80. Jimmy Connors famously stated he would follow Bjorn to the ends of the earth (Oz) but only if BB won the third leg at flushing. Sadly he never did and the Aussie was always robbed of many top male players until roughly 1988.
Thank you for your explanation Mark! It was very thorough.

So basically, if I understand well, we could say the most important events were, according to the period:
1968-1971: Wimbledon, US Open
1972-1976: Wimbledon, US Open, VS Championships
1977-1978: Wimbledon, US Open, Avon Championships, Colgate Championships
1979-1980: French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, Avon Championships, Colgate Championships (was one of these Masters more important than the other?)
1981-Today: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, VS Championships (now WTA Finals), Toyota Champs (in 81 and 82)

I'm not quite sure if the FO was a truly important event from 1972-1973 though. In 1972 you had a field with BJK, Goolagong and Casals. In 1973 you could add Court and Chrissie in there (no BJK though). That kind of implies it was big back then.

In fact, from the beginning of the open era, it seems it had pretty good draws up until 1974. So maybe the FO could be considered a big title on par with Wimbledon and the USO for the 1968-1973 period?

One could make a case for the AO too, at least for the years BJK played in 68 and 69.

PS: I agree it's a shame about Borg. If he had won the USO, he would have travelled to Australia and thus save the AO (which went through a BIG crisis on the men's side during that period, I think they didn't even get the top players till 1984, a few years after Evert and Navratilova played it again).

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old Jan 4th, 2018, 06:52 PM
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Re: Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

Oddly it seems the AO and FOs importance were dependent on who decided to show up each year. I know this has a lot to do with $$$ and being able to deservedly spend Thanksgiving, Xmas and NYE at home, but can you imagine that happening with any major now? The last time I recall anything like this happening was Martina and Chris skipping the Aussie and then French in 1989. Lendl skipping French and Agassi Wimbledon. But it didnít affect the prestige in the least.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 2018, 12:56 PM
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Re: Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

Bjorn Borg at 12:30 here before his final against Connors at the USO 1976: "it's the only one left, I have won the big ones: I won the French, Wimbledon, Rome and the Davis Cup..."



So you have your answer: The French was a major in the 70's. Borg doesn't mention the AO, but in my opinion the AO was a major too. When Connors won it in 1974 it was said he had won the "petit chelem sur gazon" (the "calendar grass slam").

In my opinion, back then some majors weren't less prestigious for being skipped by some big players. It's just that tennis was still being organized worldwide.

It's the idea that the AO was a major that led it to the major it is now. It's a matter of tradition and culture. Tennis was always big in Australia despite the distance.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 2018, 10:00 PM
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Re: Were the Australian Open and French Open not considered majors in the 70s?

Yes definitely but I think changing the Aussie tournament dates helped the tournament tremendously. A player can now enjoy thanksgiving, Xmas and possibly even NYE at home or their destination of choice. If the Aussie continued to be played during (!) Xmas and onto NY Day I donít even think Steffi would have played it in 1988 and beyond. (I know, I know, itís the first leg of the slam so that doesnít make much sense, but just sayiní!).
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