Today, I go back to the 4th of January, 1976.
The burly battler Mark ‘Eddo’ Edmondson, a 21-year-old from Gosford, ranked No.212 in the ATP Rankings and working part-time as a cleaner, came through a typical Australian Open field dominated by Aussies (A common theme until the late 1980s), most notably defeating the ageless top seed Ken ‘Muscles’ Rosewall in the Semi Final, before defeating defending champion (And former World No.1) John Newcombe in 4 sets in a hard-fought Final at a windy Kooyong (6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1), with Eddo fulfilling his post-Semi Final goal of not making a fool of himself on centre court…. At least until he dropped the winners’ trophy.
Not many athletes could match Newk’s iconic moustache, but that summer’s day, Eddo’s handlebar got the chocolates in the Battle Of The Moustaches:
Here’s some various other facts:
The tournament started on Boxing Day 1975, which was commonplace after moving to Kooyong in 1972, and it wouldn’t be until the last Kooyong tournament in 1987 that the AO was rescheduled to the now traditional mid-January timeslot, which is part of the reason why there was no Australian Open in 1986.
Conditions that day in Melbourne could be best described as putrid – The mercury topped 42 degrees Celsius, giving the St John ambos a real workout with patrons dropping from heat exhaustion, and to cap it off, there was a 72km/h wind storm that hit the stadium during the 3rd set, stopping play for 30 minutes while chairs and various other things went flying, forcing Newcombe to drop down and cover his head:
After play resumed, Eddo won the 3rd set in a tiebreak, and anchored by his big serve and aggressive gameplan, stormed to his only major title with a 6-1 win in the 4th Set.
Cementing his win as something close to the stuff of legend, 45 years later, Eddo is still the most recent Australian to win the Men’s Singles title at the Australian Open, and remains the lowest-ranked major winner (No.212) since the ATP Rankings began in 1973, although it should be noted that he wasn’t a wildcard like Goran Ivanišević was at Wimbledon in 2001.
Eddo’s winners’ prize was approximately $7,500, although Peter Stone’s report in The Age from January 6 states that it was $8,156…. And that was with Marlboro pumping money into the tournament.
The 1976 AO Final was the only Major singles final that Eddo appeared in, although he did appear in 2 more Major Semi Finals; The 1981 Australian Open, and Wimbledon in 1982, reaching a career-high ranking of No.15, and he would go on to win 5 Doubles Majors, most with Kim Warwick.
It was also the tenth and last Major singles final appearance for Newcombe, who did at least win the Men’s Doubles title with trusty partner Tony Roche, which was Newk’s 26th and last Major title (7 in singles, 17 in doubles, and 2 in Mixed Doubles) before he finally retired in 1981, the last link to the golden age of Australian tennis in the 1950s and ’60s.
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