And it's an end-of-year wrap!
This week Canada scored its first goal in World Cup history in Qatar and won its first ever Davis Cup in tennis in Malaga.
The World Cup goal is of no significance as Canada will not be proceeding to the next round of the world’s most watched sporting event. Mind you, there are many who consider the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar as FIFA’s greatest off-side decision of all time.
Conversely, one suspects that very few were aware of the Davis Cup finals. The world’s most famous males team event in tennis has been desiccated into a weeklong, best of three sets format. Matches between nations are usually decided in a day. Gone are the epic Davis Cup finals staged over three days with the title often being decided by the fifth and final reverse singles match.
The female counterpart of the Davis Cup, the Federation Cup, has now been renamed the Billie-Jean King Cup. Like the Davis Cup, it was recently won by a team in red, Switzerland, who also won the title for the first time. In both competitions the runner-up was Australia, seeking its first Davis Cup win since 2003 and its first BJK Cup win since 1973.
In the world of politics, the red hues became even stronger in Australia with the emphatic return of the Labor State government in Victoria. Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, once described Victoria as the “jewel in the Liberal Party’s crown.” Saturday’s result confirmed that the Liberal Party is now more akin to a battered costume jewellery brooch.
Come the next election in Victoria in 2026, the Liberal Party will have only been in office for ten of the last forty-four years. This century, the Liberal Party have only held office from 2010-2014 . Tennis and politics once again collided and provided a slight moment of cheer for the bruised Liberal Party. Sam Groth, a former player, and commentator, who is best remembered for serving the fastest ever ace- 263.4 kph-in tennis history, won a seat in the Victorian Parliament for the Liberal Party.
It is clearly a difficult time to be a political conservative in Australia. The Federal government and six of the State and Territory governments are Labor. The traditional tory appeal for voters to endorse financial rectitude rings hollow in electorates awash with deficit enlarging Covid spending and infrastructure projects whose runaway costs are blithely accepted by most. The millennials and Gen Z voters, who now eclipse the baby boomers, value action on climate change, equity, inclusivity, diversity, and reconciliation more than shrill appeals on the maintenance of law and order , economic probity and securing our borders.
The conservative Liberal Party have lost the last three State elections in Victoria. If these electoral results were a tennis score, it would be 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. However, in terms of ‘points won’ by the major parties, it should be noted, that the primary vote of both major parties declined in Saturday’s election. The hearts and minds of many voters remain far from committed to the appeals of centrist left and right-wing groups. For these are the voters who fail to see either major party being able to guarantee that they will experience
the economic security, especially that provided by home ownership, of earlier generations and/or securing an appropriate level of environmental sustainability.
Contemporary scepticism about the worth of the political process was encapsulated when a Channel 9 reporter, Rebecca Maddern, began her interview with Sam Groth with the following question, “After life on the tennis circuit and the commentary box, what would make you want to enter politics?” At a time when we need to improve the calibre of our representatives, the prevailing public sentiment is at best ennui and, at worst, disdain.
The Albanese government has promised through its new Industrial Relations legislation to “get wages moving,” but everyone from the Governor of the Reserve Bank to the Treasurer, admit that most Australians will see their dwindling spending power continue to decline for the near future. Can Australia avoid the dark economic vortex of unsustainable personal debt levels, rising interest rates and falling house prices? Like Roddick trying to valiantly eclipse Federer in their Wimbledon finals, it seems that wage growth may not be able to overcome the power of inflation.
As 2022 nears its end, apprehension and concern could be argued to be the world’s dominant political emotions. America’s political system is no less stymied after the recent mid-term elections delivered control of the House of the Representatives to the Republican Party, with control of the Senate still in flux until a run-off election in Georgia. Both the Republicans and the Democratic parties have existential crises to manage as both must consider the ramifications of allowing Trump and Biden to seek re-election.
Closer to the Georgia on the other side of the Atlantic, the Ukrainian conflict shows no signs of abating as the northern winter approaches. The chill economic winds that the conflict has blown across the world have seen cost of living crises overtake concerns about the continuing effects of Covid-19 and the potential effects of climate change. Many Australians, free to enjoy unrestricted travel at Christmas, are paying airfares to traverse our wide brown land- well not so brown now thanks to La Nina weather patterns-that would have taken them to Europe and back in business class seats not so long ago!
England’s latest Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has not wilted like a Trussian lettuce, but along with the relatively new Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, must be wondering what levers are left to pull to revive their flagging national economies. Brazil and Israel wait to see what their new leaders will deliver. And Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Chief Minister, continues to beat the separatist drum.
China’s President Xi Jin Ping has not had time to feel the warm inner glow of his imperious endorsement at the recent Chinese Communist conference. Incipient public protests and frustration about China’s ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns continue. The silver lining for the world in China’s Covid-19 cloud is that now is not an apposite time for the President to consider a forced takeover of Taiwan.
China will itself experience an unforced takeover when it is shortly eclipsed by India as the world’s most populous nation.
By most estimates, the world’s population did not reach 1,000,000,000 until the late nineteenth century. In November this year, the world recorded a population of 8,000,000,000. The world’s most recent 1,000,000,000 citizens arrived in the last 12 years. Relief is in sight! The next 1,000,000,000 will arrive over the next 15 years. Elon Musk may be alienating his current band of Twitter followers, but it seems he will not want for a potential target audience in the years ahead. The population of Africa increases every eight months, by the current population of Australia, some 25,000,000.
Despite these numbers, which cannot help but evoke the Industrial Revolution concerns of Reverend Malthus and make most of us feel just a little inconsequential, the tennis world still seeks to crown two players as the year’s No.1, alone and above all others. The rankings computer, which ingests results from tournaments over the year, comparing them to last year’s results, provides confirmation of our year-end supremos at the conclusion of season ending playoff tournaments.
Despite the Women’s game becoming predictably unpredictable, no-one could object to the worthiness of Iga Swiatek being ranked as the world’s best player. Two Grand Slam titles and a run of impressive tournament victories had her well ahead of her rivals even though she lost in the semi-finals of the season ending tournament in Fort Worth, which was won by France’s Caroline Garcia. This year the Polish player poleaxed the others!
The Men’s No.1 ranked player has made history but, through no fault of his own, has also engendered controversy. Carlos Alcaraz is the first player since rankings began in 1973, to be ranked No.1 without having been ranked in the Top 10 players of the previous year. He is the youngest player to be ranked No.1 at year’s end.
Injury prevented Alcaraz from participating in the ATP Finals Tournament in Turin, which was won by Novak Djokovic for a sixth time, equalling Roger Federer’s record.
Djokovic finishes the year ranked No.5 but is arguably the world’s best player. The Australian and American governments prohibited him playing in Melbourne and New York, where Alcaraz won his maiden Grand Slam title, because of his Covid-19 vaccination status. Djokovic lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open to Nadal and won Wimbledon but earned no ranking points. Self-inflicted rankings pain some might say, but Alcaraz would not be No.1 without these anomalies.
Australian tennis fans, courtesy of our Federal Government reversing Djokovic’s three-year visa ban, will see Djokovic return to Melbourne to seek a 10th Australian Open title which would draw him level with defending champion Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles. Provided Alcaraz has recovered from his abdominal injury, the prospect of a mighty clash between the old and new guard exists! No doubt many in Melbourne will still find it hard to fathom that it is only a year since Ashleigh Barty walked away from the game after this year’s hometown triumph.
Whilst it is traditional to wonder what it will take for worldwide peace and prosperity to prevail as the new year approaches, my thoughts this year turn to the following questions:
-If American buildings lowered their winter heating temperature settings by two degrees and Singaporean buildings increased theirs by a similar level would the world’s climate problems be solved?
-why does every Australian apple have to bear an environmentally destructive plastic sticker identifying its variety?
-how many marine species are at threat from the number of rubber bands that are used to bind broccolini plants?
-if umpires at the French Open can see on their screens whether a ball is in or out, why do they insist on climbing down from their chairs to confirm what is known to them?
What would the world be, tennis rankings included, if nothing was as obvious and straightforward at it first appeared?!
Merry everything !