While the Australian Open will be starting in a week, Australia is blooming: Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Saville, Jasika or even the hidebound Tomic, many are dreaming of blowing the dust off "their" Grand Slam record, devoid of any success from a local since Mark Edmondson (1976) and Chris O'Neil (1978). But beware: since the move to Melbourne Park, the "Aussies" curse at home has been real. Focus on those champions who have been shining in London, New York or Paris, but who were never able to rule at home.
Wendy Turnbull, nothing rather than doubles
Always ranked, never winner: Wendy Turnbull started the bad luck streak for Australians in their tournament. Briefly world number 3 in 1984, behind the untouchable Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, the player from Brisbane came close to the title several years running, without ever touching it: Final in 1980 - losing to Hana Mandlíková after beating Navratilova in the previous round - semi-finals in 1981, quarter-finals in 1982 and 1983, semi-finals again in 1984... but no trophy at the end. Worse, at a time and in a country where the doubles was very powerful, Wendy Turnbull's record almost looks like a caricature since it features a title at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and two US Open in ladies' doubles, as well as two French Open, two Wimbledon and one US Open in mixed doubles... but unfortunately not the slightest triumph in front of her public of Kooyong.
Pat Cash, so close and yet so far... so sad
If there's one that came close to the goal, it is Pat Cash. To be precise, two points. In 1988, the player who was then defending champion at Wimbledon came close to opening the prize list of the Flinders Park synthetic complex. Yet he ended up losing to Mats Wilander, not without coming within two points of the title in the fifth set (6/3 6/7 3/6 6/1 8/6).
As a weird twist of fate, the previous year, for the last edition played on the lawn of the old Kooyong stadium, Cash was already in final, already against a Swede... and already lost in five sets, while the momentum seemed in his favour when he came back at two sets all against Stefan Edberg (6/3 6/4 3/6 5/7 6/3).
One missed opportunity, that's a lot, but two it's a little too much. There won't be a third. Pat Cash was still only 23 years old but quickly worn out by injuries, passed through the late 80s and early next decade in anonymity.
Patrick Rafter, too late
A title in doubles in 1999 as a consolation: in singles, Patrick Rafter has hardly excelled at home. In his defence, the Rebound Ace from the 90s was more built for baseline punchers than for attackers. Nevertheless, the accumulation of early eliminations - three in the first round, one in the second, three in the third - is pretty bad for a man who won the US Open twice (1997, 1998), reached the final in Wimbledon twice (2000, 2001) and even played the semi-finals at the French Open (1997). Rafter has waited for his very last participation in the tournament in 2001 to finally reach the last four at home, even leading two sets to one against Andre Agassi before suffering from a heat stroke 7/5 2/6 6/7 6/2 6/3).
Too bad: if he had won just one other set, he would have met the novice Arnaud Clement in the final, and perhaps we wouldn't be talking of the Australian curse in Melbourne anymore...
Mark Philippoussis, the missed opportunity
When Mark Philippoussis, a very powerful player, spread Pete Sampras as a jigsaw puzzle all over the Melbourne Central in the third round of the 1996 edition, the public of the antipodes logically thought that they had, with this 19-year old newcomer, the future great of the tennis world.
A decade full of eclipses later, it's an understatement to say that Philippoussis didn't really confirmed the hopes of his country despite his status as the last great architect behind the Australian victories in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas in 1999 and 2003. For the rest, he reached one US Open final (1998), another at Wimbledon (2003), but only a handful of knockout rounds in Melbourne... between a few withdrawals because of injuries. Definitely a colossus with feet of clay.
Jelena Dokic, I love you, me neither
Born Yugoslav but arrived in Australia at the age of eleven, Jelena Dokic always had a complicated relationship with her adopted country. In sporting terms, the Australian Open was the tournament where she was the least successful while her good results at Wimbledon (semi-finals in 1999 in 1998) and Roland Garros (quarter finalist in 2002) led her to the world top four, she lost twice in the first round and once in the third during her first participation at the South Pacific Grand Slam tournament... A tournament she then boycotted for three seasons, while the bridges were broken with her federation and she then briefly took the Serbo-Montenegrin nationality. When she reconciled with her second home, it was too late: her late quarter final in Melbourne in 2009 seemed to be more a swan song than a renaissance.
Lleyton Hewitt, toughness didn't pay off
True to himself, Lleyton Hewitt gave a lot of great battles on the courts of Melbourne Park. But a lost match lost to his nemesis Carlos Moya (2001), an unlucky chickenpox (2002) and a Younes El Aynaoui on fire (2003) stopped him while he was dominating the world rankings. The champion of the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, however, managed to be on the court on the last Sunday in 2005, after a brilliant journey (against Clement, Blake and Chela, a young man called Nadal, before David Nalbandian and Andy Roddick) but ultimately unrewarded against the great Marat Safin.
After putting all his energy into the battle, Hewitt then left fairly quickly the peaks of the ATP. And if he’s still playing matches in five sets during the first weeks, he has never played the leading roles again.
Samantha Stosur, at the edge of a nervous breakdown
She won the US Open in 2011 after defeating Serena Williams in final. She proved to be very consistent at Roland Garros with a final and two semi-finals between 2009 and 2012. But nothing to do: as soon as Samantha Stosur step foot "down under", she gets invariably dizzy to the point of only reaching the knockout stages twice in twelve participations to the flagship event of the new year. And 2015 may not deviate from the rule: the muscular lady with fragile nerves started her season with a defeat in the first round of the Brisbane tournament against Varvara Lepchenko, after an unconverted match point. When there's no way...