It goes without saying that winning a grand slam title is no easy feat. And on foreign soil, that task is even more difficult.
Apart from the battle against the combatant on the other side of the net, you must also adapt to the environment around you and overcome potentially unfamiliar court surfaces and weather conditions.
American Jim Courier and Sweden’s Mats Wilander are two players who have done exactly that to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup following the final match of the Australian Open. At a legends lunch celebrating the career of Australian tennis icon Roy Emerson on Saturday, they spoke about their successes on Aussie soil.
A eventual seven-time grand slam champion, Wilander entered the 1983 Australian Open as a wildcard before going on a dream run to the final, where he defeated fellow baseline specialist Ivan Lendl 6-1 6-4 6-4 to claim his ninth title of the season.
Still played on the grass courts at the Open’s traditional home of Kooyong, it was an eye-opening experience for the 19-year-old.
“That was the first time I really felt like I could play with the best players in the world on the surface that I usually played soccer on, or mini-tennis,” he joked.
“It was also the first time that I saw people paint their faces in their country’s colours.”
Courier first tasted Australian Open success in 1992, before returning to defend his crown against the same opponent, Swede Stefan Edberg, a year later.
“It was an interesting day because it became so hot out of nowhere,” Courier remembered.
“It was fairly cool like this tournament has been with the exception of a few days. They wanted to close the roof because it was going to be so hot. Stefan was up for that, he was from Sweden after all.”
But the roof stayed open, much to the delight of the American who believed it gave him an advantage over his opponent.
“I knew that I had Stefan in trouble when he walked onto court wearing a hat. He had perfect hair, and still does, he never wore a hat. So when he walked on court with a hat I felt I was in pretty good shape,” Courier reminisced.
As was the case in ’92, the four-set win was followed by another infamous jump into Melbourne’s Yarra River.
“The first year I had no idea it was the 18th-most polluted river in the world. No one told me that until the next day ... it’s probably going to hurt the freckles, so that can’t be good,” the 42-year-old said.
“But superstitions are superstitions, and we went with it again, my coach and I decided to go in. When you win a tournament like this you have to celebrate. I have such great memories and it’s great to be back here again.”
While modern-era hard courts may create a more homogenous tour compared to the days of Wilander and even Courier, one of this year’s finalists Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray must still master the Rod Laver Arena plexicushion – and of course each other – if they are to take home the silverware.
The victor will then be able to return with their own tale about conquest on Australian soil in 2013.