There was precious little money in tennis in Daphne Akhurst‘s day, or else she might have become an early version of a whizkid, an Antipodean Graf or Hingis.
In 1917, when Akhurst was 14, she won the New South Wales schoolgirls’ singles title against older girls. She defended it over the next three years. She subsequently won the Australian women’s title in 1925-1926 and again from 1928-30. She was equally successful in doubles.

Akhurst, a music teacher, never received tennis coaching. She taught herself to play because she thought tennis fun, and had natural flair. Elegantly attired, and often sporting a red headband, she had a free-hitting style and a strong will to win. The crowds loved her, making her the first Australian woman to achieve top drawcard status.

In 1930, after marrying Royston Cozens, she decided she’d no longer play competitive singles. Her fans were devastated, but much worse news followed, in Januray 1933, Daphne died aged 29 of an ectopic pregnancy, leaving her husband to care for their six-month old son. Two years later, Roysten married Louie Bickerton, one of Daphne’s best friends and frequent doubles partner.

The trophy presented each year to the winner of the women’s singles at the Australian Open is named the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in her honour.

The Australian Open is already just around the corner! Australian Open 2012 was launched last week at Melbourne Park by the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, and Aussie legend Roy Emerson.

Australian Open 2012 is set to offer the highest prize money in the history of Grand Slam tennis. The total prize pool will be $26 million, with the men’s and women’s champions taking home a record $2.3 million each.

A few other initiatives have been announced:
– the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, will head to China for the first ever international leg of the Australian Open Trophy Tour this week.
Hawk-Eye to be introduced on Margaret Court Arena
– bigger and better Grand Slam Oval following redevelopment work, with improved access and additional space
– expanded merchandise range to include prestige memorabilia collection
– Australian Open Kids Day returns with more activities and opportunities for kids to play on the Australian Open courts
– improved player facilities, with a new player lounge, gym and entertainment options including a shark aquarium and live music performances.

The Australian Open is my second favorite Grand Slam (the first being Wimbledon, of course), and I am always amazed by their innovations and how they take care of the spectators.

Stay tune for more coverage of Australian Open 2012!