This article is dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the first Australian Championship
Written by Karoly Mazak
On various venues…1908-1915
In 1908 Brookes was unable to undertake the journey to travel to Wimbledon to defend his title. In Australia Brookes had a wood factory and played more and more sporadically because of his business obligations. He concentrated his efforts to defend the Davis Cup that was used as a flower bowl in Brookes’ home. Australasia managed to retain the Davis Cup against the USA 3-2 in Melbourne. After the Davis Cup match, Fred Alexander from the visiting American team won the Australasian title in Sydney in the absence of Brookes or Wilding.
In 1909 Tony Wilding remained at home and won his second Australasian title (carried this year by the men’s Western Australian Championships) in Perth in October. But his greatest triumph was his 2-6 3-6 6-3 6-3 9-7 victory against Brookes in the final of the Victorian Championships. Wilding was a baseliner, a model for physical fitness, hitting with immense power and overspin. Australasia with Brookes and Wilding easily retained the Davis Cup in Sydney by beating the USA.
In 1910 Wilding sailed back to Europe where he won his first Wimbledon title. The men’s South Australian Championships in Adelaide carried the Australasian title in March and was won by Rod Heath in the absence of Brookes or Wilding. There was no challenge for the Davis Cup this year. Both the USA and the British Isles withdrew because they could not send a team to Australia due to the unavailability of their best players.
In 1911 Wilding defended his Wimbledon title and ended his season to work in his wood-pulp firm. The Victorian Championships in November carried the Australasian title for men and Norman Brookes finally had the opportunity to enter it for the first time. He won it easily, overcoming defending champion Heath in the quarters in four sets. Australasia retained the Davis Cup beating the USA 4-0 in January in Christchurch, New Zealand. Although Wilding expressed a desire to play the challenge round in his birthplace, his British employer did not allow him to make such a long trip.
In 1912 the British Isles defeated favourite Australasia 3-2 in the Davis Cup challenge round in Melbourne. In the opening singles Jim Cecil Parke surprisingly beat Brookes 8-6 6-3 5-7 6-2. Parke also won the Australasian title in Hastings, New Zealand, where no Australian player entered.
In 1913 the Australasian title was carried by the men’s Western Australian Championships in Perth in October and local player Ernie Parker won it from yet another weak field.
In 1914 Brookes dethroned Wilding at Wimbledon and the two of them won the Davis Cup for Australasia beating the USA 3-2 in New York just as World War I had broken out. After war had been declared Brookes went home to Australia whilst Wilding signed up to the British Army. The Victorian Championships in November carried the Australasian title for men and was won by Arthur O’Hara Wood in the absence of Brookes.
In May 1915 Tony Wilding died in a trench in Northern France. Gordon Lowe, serving in the British army, won the Australasian title (combined with the Queensland Championships for men) in Brisbane in August. This was the last important tennis tournament in Australia till the end of World War I…to be continued.