During the 70s, the Australian Open was the weakest out of four most significant tennis tournaments, staged at the worst possible time and failing to draw the players from Europe and the USA, as no one wanted to spend Christmas and New Year away from their families.
Bjorn Borg traveled to the Australian Open only once while Jimmy Connors never came back after losing the final in January 1975, with the Aussies dominating the home Major after taking all but 14 titles since 1905! Nothing changed in 1976 as well, with the defending champion John Newcombe reaching another Major title match in front of the home fans, facing an unknown 21-year-old Mark Edmondson in the battle for the trophy.
Ranked 212th, Edmondson staged one of the biggest sensations in the history of men's tennis, defeating the second seed Newcombe 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1 to become the lowest-ranked Grand Slam champion, also the last Australian who celebrated at the Australian Open, someone no one could have predicted at that time!
Almost all of the seeds were the Aussies while many of the leading players were not in Melbourne to compete for the title, allowing 41-year-old Ken Rosewall to lead the field! Edmondson had the opportunity to play at the Australian Open and Wimbledon as a qualifier in 1975 but tennis was not the only source of his incomings, working as a janitor and a cleaner in a hospital.
Besides, he had no money to stay in the hotel near the stadium, having to travel for an hour every day towards a friend's house and back! Mark opened his campaign at the famous Kooyong Stadium with a hard-fought victory over Peter Feigl in five sets, winning three more matches to reach the semi-final where he faced the legendary veteran Ken Rosewall.
Mark took down his great compatriot 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to advance into the final, serving to Ken's backhand and attacking his weaker forehand wing in the rallies. Newcombe was a heavy favorite on January 4 but Edmondson picked up where he left against Rosewall to power his way and grab the title, prevailing in the third set tie break (Newcombe had a set point at 6-5) and saving his best tennis for set number four where he completely outplayed the defending champion.
In the third set, a strong wind interrupted the match for half an hour, with the temperature suddenly collapsing from 40 degrees Celsius to mid-20s. That didn't stop Mark or broke his rhythm, though, finishing the encounter without losing his serve even once.
As was expected, Edmondson never repeated anything similar by the end of a career, although he advanced into the semi-final at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1982. Edmondson claimed five Majors in doubles, becoming world no.
3 in 1984. The future of Australian tennis looks bright with Nick Kyrgios, Alex De Minaur, Alexei Popyrin and some other young guns on the board, and it will be interesting to see are we going to witness another Aussie champion at the home Major anytime soon, the first heir of charismatic Mark Edmondson.