DOES THE AO HELP OR HINDER AUSSIE SUCCESS AT HOME?


It's been 44 years since an Aussie has claimed the Australian Open title, not since Chris O'Neil in 1978.


We have to go back a further two years to the most recent men's winner in Mark Edmondson in 1976.


This lack of homegrown champions for our nation's biggest tennis event ponders the question, does the home grand slam in front of cheering fans and familiar surroundings help or hinder those trying to break the drought?


The obvious answer might be to simply say we haven't had the talent to do so, but that wouldn't be a true reflection of four decades littered with outstanding tennis stars that have claimed other slams.


Another simple thought would be to say, surely having the full support of Rod Laver Arena behind you would provide a home-court advantage much like a football crowd? But no, that doesn't change the absence of an Australian Open champion we crave.


Honing our focus to a couple of players that have come close, or at least carried the weight of expectation on their shoulders of summers gone by, provides an interesting insight.


Two-time grand slam winner and former world number one Lleyton Hewitt regularly carried the hopes of a nation each January but never claimed the ultimate success. A run to the final in 2005 was his best performance. However, that was the only time he passed the fourth round. A feat he accomplished 14 times across the other slams, the burden of expectation or no just coincidence?


Sam Stosur was perhaps the prime example for pleading the case of hinder over help at her home slam.


The US Open champion and French Open finalist never seemed to warm to the expectation that would fall on her each summer, many of which she was Australia's top-ranked woman and player in general.


The pressure seemingly snowballed as her career went on, never making it past the fourth round, winning just five matches in her last ten Open appearances, in amongst a host of first-round exits.


We have seen Great Britain's Andy Murray (2013, 2016) breakthrough at Wimbledon in recent years, American's Andy Roddick (2003) and Pete Sampras (2002) deliver US Open titles this century alongside a host of Serena and Venus Williams' crowns. While Mary Pierce (2000) is the most recent French player to win at Roland Garros. Although, Rafael Nadal has had a fair bit to do with that.


Nonetheless, this year Australia boasts its best opportunity to break the drought as world number one Ash Barty takes to the court.


Barty is in sublime form, winning the Adelaide International in the lead-up to the AO. She has made two quarter-finals and a semi-final at Melbourne Park across the past three years but will be hoping to go all the way in 2022.


Her campaign will provide another sample into the question of does the home grand slam help or hinder our Australian tennis stars as the weight of expectation grows and grows as each year passes without a winner.



There is clearly a number of reasons as to why we haven't seen an Aussie claim the title in so long, but as the focus intensifies on those looking to achieve the feat it adds another layer of pressure onto an already journey.