The origins of the Brisbane International trace back to the early 1970s, when the Grand Prix tennis circuit, formed in 1970, and which ran concurrently with other tours as the World Championship Tennis circuit, decided to feature on its calendar an event in Queensland to develop a South West Pacific season around the Australian Open - then taking place in Brisbane - alongside other Oceanian events of Sydney, New South Wales; Hobart, Tasmania; and Auckland, New Zealand. The Adelaide-based South Australian Tennis Championships, running as an amateur, then as a State championship, since 1889, were brought to the professional circuit in 1972. The first professional edition of the men's event, played, like the Australian Open, on outdoor grass courts, saw the victory of Soviet Alex Metreveli over Kim Warwick, while the women's event, still not featured in either the Commercial Union Grand Prix circuit or the Virginia Slims circuit, saw Australian Evonne Goolagong win the title.
The tournament had a chaotic history over the following years, taking place on the professional tour again in 1974, in 1977, as the Marlboro-sponsored South Australian Men's Tennis Classic, and in 1979, as the South Australian Open, before it started a regular run in 1981 under the latter title. Moved from January to December in the Grand Prix circuit calendars of the early 1980s, the South Australian Open sealed its place as the opening event of the season in 1987, when it was scheduled again in January, following the return of the Australian Open as the first Grand Slam event of the year. After the surface change of the Australian Open, the tournament also switched to hard courts, starting with the 1988 edition. During the 1980s, the event saw the victories of Australian players as Wally Masur, Mark Woodforde, Mark Kratzmann or Darren Cahill. The taking over of the tour's organization in 1990 by the Association of Tennis Professionals led to several changes, when the tournament, an ATP World Series event, became the Australian Men's Hardcourt Championships, and the prize money increased from $93,000 to $125,000.
In 1997, the Corel WTA Tour created a new event –played on outdoor hardcourts– in Gold Coast, Queensland. The Tier III Gold Coast Classic was added the three preexisting tournaments of Auckland, Sydney and Hobart, and became one of the two events held in the first week of the women's calendar, parallel to the men's Adelaide tournament. Various players, among which Ai Sugiyama, Justine Henin, Patty Schnyder or Venus Williams found success over the years at the low tier tune-up event for the Australian Open. The Gold Coast Classic became the Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts in 1998, took the sponsorship of Uncle Tobys in 2003, becoming Uncle Tobys Hardcourts, and changed names again in 2006 to Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts.
As both the men's and the women's tour calendars were to undergo important changes from 2008 to 2009, with the WTA inaugurating its new roadmap of International and Premier tournaments, and the ATP Tour becoming the ATP World Tour, with new Masters 1000, 500 and 250 events, it was decided in 2006 to merge the Next Generation Adelaide International and the Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourts into a larger ATP-WTA joint tournament in Brisbane, leading, similarly to the joint Medibank International Sydney, to the Australian Open. Tennis Australia chief Steve Wood commented on the shift: "One of the reasons we are doing this is that there's a rise of more lucrative overseas tournaments in the lead-up to the Australian Open offering increasingly attractive alternatives to the top players looking to prepare for the first Grand Slam. [...] So we really wanted them to invest in having them continue to prepare here in Australia, on the road to the Australian Open." The first Brisbane International took place in Brisbane's newly built Tennyson Tennis Centre – and its Patrick Rafter-named Centre Court – in January 2009. In time for the 2012 event the tournament was promoted to a premier event on the WTA tour.
In the men's singles, Lleyton Hewitt (1998, 2000, 2014) holds the record for most titles with three. Mike Bauer (1982–83), Mark Woodforde (1988–89), Nicklas Kulti (1991, 1993), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1994, 1996) and Andy Murray (2012–13) each have two titles. Bauer, Woodforde and Murray co-hold the record for most consecutive titles. Hewitt alone holds the record for most finals with four (1998–2000, 2014).