Gala Opening Night At Rod Laver Arena To Celebrate 50 Glorious Years

MELBOURNE, January 13, 2018 (AO Press Release)

Defending champions Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki will kick off a blockbuster opening night on Rod Laver Arena at Australian Open 2019.

The first night session will open with a gala celebration to honour the 50thbirthday of the tournament, which Rod Laver won in 1969,  and will includeRussell Morris performing his classic hit “The Real Thing” which was a chart-topping anthem of the time.

Fans with RLA tickets are encouraged to be seated in the stadium by 6.40pm.

The Australian legend Rod Laver will be in the stadium that bears his name, in what is set to be a fitting tribute to both the anniversary of Laver’s second Grand Slam and the birth of the Australian Open.

The year 1969 was significant in tennis because it saw the start of professional tennis in Australia, with the Australian Open the first leg of the major tournaments that make up the Grand Slam.

Rod went on to win the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, the only time a man has won the Grand Slam in the open era. He also achieved this feat in 1962, during the amateur era, and his record remains unmatched.

The stadium screens will highlight the big news stories, Rod Laver’s achievements and highlights from fifty editions of the Australian Open, as well as special recognition of the man himself.

The first Australian Open in Brisbane drew a strong field including Rod Laver who had been in exile from Grand Slam tournaments for six years since giving up his amateur status.

Laver defeated Tony Roche in five sets in the semi-finals before beating Spaniard Andres Gimeno is straight sets in the final.

“It really was a thrill to win the first Open. I hadn’t played in Australia for several years and to win in front of my family and friends made it so special,” says Laver.

Laver, fondly dubbed ‘Rocket’ helped launch the Australian Open which has grown from humble beginnings into one of the world’s great sporting events.

The 1969 Australian Open offered a total of just $30,000 in prize money which has grown to $62.5m in 2019.

The Australian Open moved to Sydney in 1970-71 before finding a permanent home in Melbourne, initially at Kooyong and then to Melbourne Park in 1988 where fittingly the centre court is Rod Laver Arena.

The year 1969 was a history making year for many reasons, including on July 21 when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

Ticket holders are urged to be seated by 6:40 for the entertainment prior to the evening’s matches.