© Ella Ling

Australian Open

The most unlikely Australian Open champions?


Not a week goes by when someone or other heralds the current era as a golden age for men’s tennis and the top four are dominating the game in a way perhaps never seen before. Now of course a grand slam winner is by definition a champion, but perhaps some are more champion than others. Here’s the first part in our slightly cruel but well-meaning look back at the “most unlikely” grand slam champions of the Open era.

The unlikely Australian Open champions.


Mark Edmondson (1976)
Once a hospital cleaner, Edmondson was ranked No 212 when he beat Ken Rosewall and then John Newcombe to win the title. He reached No 25 in 1982 and remains the lowest-ranked man to ever win one of the big four events.

Thomas Johansson (2002)
The Swede was a good player, just not a great one. Though he made only one other grand slam semi-final in his career, he took the title in Melbourne thanks to a kindly draw and victory over an (allegedly) hungover Marat Safin in the final.

Bill Bowrey (1968)
Who, I hear you say? Well, Bowrey was a fine player too but outshone by the Australian greats. In 1968, with Newcombe, Roy Emerson and Tony Roche all turned professional, the way was clear for Bowrey to win his only slam.

The women:  

Barbara Jordan (1979)
With most of the top American players staying at home during the Christmas holidays back then, Jordan was a shock winner. The title was one of only two singles crowns she won in her career and when tournament organisers invited former champions to a ceremony in Melbourne a few years ago, they forgot to invite her. Ouch

Chris O’Neil (1978)
The last Australian to win the title, man or woman, O’Neil never made it higher than No 80 in the rankings but managed to snaffle a grand slam title by beating Betsy Naglesen in the final.

Kerry Melville Reid (1977)
OK, so this is a bit cruel since Reid was ranked in the top 10 for more than a decade. She also won 26 other singles titles but she was better known as a runner-up, losing 40 finals, so her victory was a big surprise

  • Darren Walton

    Can’t argue with these over-achievers – but I thought you were promoting worst-ever world No.1s. I would have liked to see you stick your neck out on that one 😉

    • Scambers

      We didn’t want to upset too many people – you never know when you might meet them! They still won a slam, after all!