"As seeds are sown and blown so they shall reap"
Last year I watched Ash Barty win the Wimbledon Ladies’ title in a motel room in Wagga Wagga. This year I shall be watching the Ladies’ final in Mildura and the Gentleman’s final in Broken Hill.
Unpredictable locations perhaps, but no more unpredictable than the tournament itself. Another change to this year’s tournament was the removal of the traditional rest day on the first Sunday of the Championships. This year, onlookers probably needed the rest more than the players so we could take stock of the tournament’s scattering of seeds.
Of the 32 singles players left in the draw at the end of the first week, 13 were unseeded, including a wildcard and a qualifier. In the Ladies’ draw the highest number seeds remaining were numbers 3 and 4 and then it fell away to 12,16,17,20 and 24. In the Men’s draw Djokovic and Nadal remained aloof as 1 and 2. Only two other top ten seeds survived the first week. They have been scattered to the winds like Ministers in Boris Johnson’s former government. Who would have thought the Queen would have to ask another Prime Minister, the fifteenth of her reign, to form a government? Boris, the umpteenth narcissist, caught in one too many “Pincher” moments of his own making!
One of the unseeded players is Australia’s Nick Kyrgios who is set to play his semi-final tomorrow night against the game’s luminary Rafael Nadal. There are many pundits, including Australia’s former wild boy of tennis Pat Cash, who argue that Kyrgios deserves the sport’s equivalent of incarceration, namely expulsion following his on-court behaviour, particularly in his first and third round matches. Notwithstanding these controversies and news that he must face charges of common assault against a former girlfriend, Kyrgios can become an unseeded Men’s champion at Wimbledon. Unseeded champions are rare. There have only been three in the Open Era beginning with the recently imprisoned Boris Becker who won the tournament in 1985, followed by Richard Krajicek in 1996 and Goran Ivanisevic, now Djokovic's coach, who broke Australian hearts with his defeat of Pat Rafter in 2001.
To beat Nadal tonight, if the Spanish superstar is fit enough to play, and probably Djokovic in the final, Kyrgios will have to emulate Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open in 2009. del Potro is the only player to have defeated two of the Great Three- Federer, Nadal and Djokovic-in the penultimate and deciding matches of a Grand Slam tournament. After Djokovic's defiant victory in his quarter-final, coming from two sets to love down to defeat Jannik Sinner, Djokovic must have great confidence in his ability to win a seventh title.
STOP PRESS EDIT- It's official. Nadal withdraws from his semi-final. After all Kyrgios' "rage and fury" he calmly enters his first Grand Slam final!
Broken Hill is a part of Australia I have not seen previously. One of the joys of Australia’s size as an island continent is that there always seem to be places to visit that you have not known before.
Information recently released from the 2021 Census suggests that all of us are living in an Australia that is vastly different from one so many have known so long. There are two forces one cannot resist: gravity and demographics.
Australia’s latest Census reveals that the number of ‘millennials’- those born between 1981-1995- now equal the ‘baby boomers’ born between 1946-1960. There are 5.5 million in each category. The millennials are set to become the dominant percentage of our population; however, unlike the fading ‘boomers’ they will not their own homes in such great numbers.
Let us not forget the aspiration of our Federal founding fathers in 1901. The great Southern land was to be a nation for the descendants of the Caucasian and Christian lands of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
Fast forward 120 years and what do we have? Like Wimbledon’s seeds scattering and other changes to the tournament- late afternoon matches that have drifted into night and mixing Men’s and Women’s quarter-finals on the same day- we are a nation that sees its predictabilities and certainties evaporating before our eyes.
Some of the most salient changes?
-For the first time less than half of the population classify themselves as people of faith: 44% compared with 61% only ten years ago;
-5.6 million Australians speak a language other than English at home, older generations would remember when a discriminatory dictation test was used as a major tool of the White Australia Policy to prevent non-English speakers entering the country ;
-One of two Australians have a parent born overseas: India is now the third largest country of birth behind Australia and England, having overtaken China and New Zealand;
-More than half our population has been born overseas for the first time since the 1890s. We are a nation that has a “migrant majority.”
Nick Kyrgios, with his Malaysian/Greek ancestry, typifies the contemporary omnipresent Australian. His on-court demeanour does not resemble that of the ‘clean-cut’ Australians players of the 1950s and 1960s. Away from the court, however, in a world free of social media, who is to stay how angelic they were? There is the wonderful story of Margaret Court- who fittingly was encouraged to attend Wimbledon’s Champions’ Parade-admonishing her Mixed Doubles partner, Ken Fletcher, for arriving to a Wimbledon final without having shaved. Ken’s retort was, “Go easy Margaret, I haven’t been to bed yet.” Needless to say, they won the title.
-The longed for “white working man’s paradise” is barely recognisable, especially when the Bureau of Statistics suggests that the “typical” Australian is a woman in her thirties.
Yet this year’s Wimbledon is one Australians may associate with decades past. For the first time in twenty years, with echoes of the halcyon days of the 1960s and early 1970s, four Australian singles players advanced to the second week of the tournament and Australian players were also remaining in all Doubles competitions.
If faith has been somewhat restored in the depth of Australia’s tennis fortunes, the decline of personal faith is a radical shift in our society. What used to be arguably the No.1 seed of our social values has utterly lost its ranking.
John Lennon reminded us “all those years ago” that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus “. In our brave new secular world, it seems that more prefer to make a pilgrimage to see Paul McCartney sing at a spritely 80 years of age at the Glastonbury music festival than visit their local church.
The seeds of the secular surge were sown many years ago. The millennials are the grandchildren of the boomers who embraced the scientific age: they watched man walk on the moon, they doubted that God could prevent a nuclear holocaust; their lives were lengthened by advances in medical science, and, for many boomer era women, the contraceptive pill took the mystery of fertility away and literally placed their reproductive destiny in their own hands.
Broken Hill and much of the far west of New South Wales is renowned for its dry, parched appearance. They say the crows fly backwards west of Dubbo to avoid the dust storms. Not this year! Record rains, caused by a La Nina weather pattern has turned much of the inland green.
Seeds will be able to be planted with rich hopes of germination and growth, even in Broken Hill and Bourke. In the days before the Industrial Revolution seeds were scattered by hand and to the winds. Englishman, Jethro Tull, then invented the seed drill which made for orderly sowing of seeds and greater yields.
Whether seeds succeed as it were still relies greatly on nature. Our Prime Minister has often stated that Australia can serve the world as a supplier of food. Maybe. The nation’s bee industry is currently alarmed at the arrival of the Varroa destructor mites that attacks and feeds on honeybees. Little did I know that many of Australia’s fruit orchards rely on bees being imported from state to state, like shuttle stallions, to ensure the pollination of orchards.
The Census reminds us that we are reaping many social challenges, seeded because of our changing demographics, especially the aging of our population.
The aged-care industry estimates there will be a shortfall of 35,000 workers in their sector next year reflecting the unceasing rise in demand for such services.
The teaching profession also faces a shortage of similar proportions. Over the next five years there will be a tsunami of ‘baby boomer’ teacher retirements.
We are clearly reaping the consequences of neglecting both the aged care and teaching sectors, both in terms of their intrinsic social importance and, consequently, the remuneration provided to each. It is no accident that public and Catholic school teachers went on strike in New South Wales last week. A corporate executive recently informed me that he had calculated that a blackjack croupier was paid a higher hourly rate than most nurses. Go figure why those who care the most are paid the least!
In addition, many teachers now complain of having to manage the explosion of mental health concerns, especially anxiety. The seeds for such anxiety levels may have well been sown by the dissemination of curriculums, especially in History and Geography, that overly admonish our society for its past practices and predict a future of unremitting environmental disaster.
Thankfully, there are some seeds that bear positive returns. Australia’s national superannuation scheme, introduced in the early 1980s is an example. Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who oversaw its introduction as Treasurer, claims that it has been responsible for the typical Australian worker having access to $200,000.00 in savings upon their retirement. Mr. Keating noted that a recent survey in America showed that 55% of American households did not have access to savings of more than $10,000.00.
Australia’s dilemma is that other government policies may well cruel the aims of national superannuation providing financial autonomy for our retired. Successive Australian governments, left and right, have made domestic real estate the most desired form of investment, especially through its exemption from capital gains tax. In Australia, housing is talked about as an investment rather than a social need.
Boomers are increasingly reluctant to sell their family homes, with their lengthening lifespans requiring capital to pay for full time aged care accommodation. Those that own property often invest in more to create streams of income. The millennials are literally locked out of housing options. More than a third of Australians rent their abodes.
Many who have battled their way into the housing market, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, will have to use their superannuation nest egg to pay off their mortgage upon retirement.
By entrenching stratospheric house prices, we have also consolidated the need for a family to have two incomes to repay their financial commitments. In turn, this has led to a significant increase in the number of children attending childcare centres. The trade-offs that most working mothers make between working or caring for children are exquisitely painful. It is an extraordinary irony that people work so hard to attain a family home but have relatively little time to enjoy it as a family. Throw in a divorce rate of 41%, and currently highest among the over-55s-and the No.2 seed of social values- the family- is also not the certainty it used to be.
Men’s Semi-finals Day. The car is packed. The Ladies' finalists are decided.
Who would have predicted the Ladies’ semi-finalists would comprise the following quartet: an unseeded German, Tatjana Maria; Kazakhstan’s- although many argue she is truly Russian- first ever Grand Slam semi-finalist, Elena Rybakina, Tunisia’s first ever Grand Slam semi-finalist, Ons Jabeur and Simona Halep, Romania’s two-time Grand Slam champion? So it is to be Jabeur v Rybakina in the final. Jabeur in three sets for mine.
Kyrgios withdrew from the Men's Doubles competition to concentrate on his singles campaign, complaining it is ridiculous that Wimbledon still plays best of five sets matches. Good luck to Australia's Matt Ebden and Max Purcell, who have needed that format to make their way to the final. Runners-up in the Australian Open, they have reached the final after coming from two sets to love down in the first round, winning in five in the second and third rounds and coming from two sets to love down to win their semi-final! Ebden, partnering Sam Stosur, also made the Mixed Doubles final. If ever two journeymen deserved a Wimbledon Doubles title, it would be Ebden and Purcell.
After the tennis finishes, parliamentary play resumes in Australia on July 26. A new government. A new Speaker. A new set of priorities: managing inflation, encouraging reconciliation, promoting higher standards of accountability, legislating to protect the environment. More policy seeds to be sown.
Times are strained enough without having listened to the following howlers by journalists in recent days: please petition your local MP as appropriate for remedial measures:
“Police are concerned that the outlawed bikies have serious weapons.” As opposed to humorous ones?
“Smith has escaped a serious knee injury.” Try avoided! The possible knee injury was neither pursuing nor detaining Smith.
“The Monash Freeway is particularly heavy this morning.” Given the freeway has not been binge eating, I suggest that the traffic flow might be greater than normal, but the weight of the freeway has not changed.
“Can you explain your concern so we can wrap our heads around it?”- heard on ABC News Radio- Try “Are you able to outline your concerns so listeners can understand them?” Death to the use of lazy vernacular expressions. Wrapping Christmas presents is difficult enough, but heads?
Will the Victorian Premier ever learn the correct usage of “less” and “fewer”? For the umpteenth time he has spoken of “less Covid deaths” in Western Australia. Premier, if the subject can be counted it is fewer! : Fewer people, less flour!!!!
Finally, worse than the perils of loose grammar and expression, is the assault on language by the progressives. Recently attending yet another seminar on the perils of masculinity, a presenter from a group known as The Men’s Project said and I quote, “ I apologise at the outset for using binary language, but I will be talking about men, so will have to use references to men.” When we have to apologise for any offence caused by using accurate and precise language, I truly wonder what noxious seeds we have sown.
Let’s hope that the language and demeanour of the final days of Wimbledon are appropriate, dignified, and predictable, unlike so much else associated with the tournament.