January 11, 1988: first day of play at Flinders Park

In 1988, the Australian Open moved from Kooyong to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park) and became a hard court event. January 11, 1988 was the first day of play at the new stadium.

Play begins at the Australian Open at the new $60 million Australian National Tennis Center at Flinders Park in Melbourne with American qualifier Wendy Wood winning the first match played in the new stadium court, later to be known as Rod Laver Arena, beating number 14 seed Dianne Balestrat of Australia.
Wood, 23, defeats the top-ranked Australian woman 6-2 4-6 8-6, registering her first professional match victory. Balestrat, 31, and an Australian Open finalist in 1977, says she has some difficulty adapting to the court – the synthetic Rebound Ace – used for the first time at the Australian Open after a switch from grass courts.

Pat Cash, the number 4 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion, plays the second stadium court match and is greeted with boos and shouts from a group of anti-apartheid protestors who, in protest of Cash playing in South Africa the previous year, also throw tennis balls on the court before being escorted from the stadium. Cash is fined $5000 for swearing at a linesman in the final game of his 7-5 6-1 6-4 win over 20-year-old Thomas Muster.

Also on the day, Yannick Noah, the number 5 seed staves off two match points before overcoming Roger Smith of the Bahamas 6-7 5-7 6-4 6-2 16-14 in 4 hours 51 minutes, the longest recorded match at the time at the Australian Open.

Source: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

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