How wonderful it is to be proved wrong for all the right reasons!
After last year’s US Open I made the “somewhat risky and provocative” prediction that “neither Nadal, Federer, Djokovic nor Serena Williams” would win another Grand Slam title. I suppose two out of four is not bad. In support of my argument I noted that the last time that Serena and Roger had been the singles’ champions in Australia was in 2007. A decade later they proved that thirty-five plus is the new twenty by adding more lustre to their stellar careers, no doubt delighting in proving me and many others wrong. Roger beat Nadal for the first time in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2007. More remarkably, Serena and sister, Venus, reprised their 2003 Australian Open final with Serena’s victory giving her a 23rd Grand Slam title. Between them Roger and Serena have now won a preposterous 41 Grand Slam titles.
Around their extraordinary achievements and apparent permanence, our world spins, shocks and surprises.
I have just attended a seminar run by the Safe Schools Coalition on transgender identity issues. The seminar is considered necessary as one of the students at my school is transitioning. I shall not declare the exact nature of the gender conversion out of respect and wanting to avoid the risk of being overly heteronormative and/or misgendering the person involved- these italicised words being a noun and verb acquired at the seminar. As if transitioning as a verb was not horrendous enough.
The rest of the world seems to be transitioning in more significant ways that do not involve reassignment surgery. Britain is leaving the European Union. The new American President is recommencing pointless trade wars and selective and provocative immigration embargos. Good grief, Australia’s parliamentarians are even considering that it may be prudent to declare accurately how they spend their travel allowances. However, some things are still as fluid as ever. New South Wales has had another Premier resign after promising to serve a full term. Michael Baird’s premature departure after two years and nine months in the role means that the last Premier in NSW to serve a full term was Bob Carr and the last Liberal Premier to serve a full term in the original colony was Nick Greiner from 1988 to 1991, when a parliamentary term in NSW was three years and Roger and Serena were but nine years old.
There was some symmetry between Sydney and Washington as the 44th Premier departed and his replacement Gladys Berejiklian, who is the first female State Liberal Premier in Australian history, became the 45th Premier of the founding colony as the 45th President was inaugurated.
However, the citadel of world tennis, controlled for so long by the four male Musketeers and Serena, resists all change and challengers. No transition seems capable of taking place as Serena chases more titles and a resurgent Rafa and Roger prove that taking six months off may be good for all of us. With Sir Andy Murray, still ranked No.1 in the world despite his unexpected defeat in Melbourne, now invested with Royal authority to slay pretenders to his throne, it is hard to see anyone outside of this imperious tennis hierarchy winning the year’s remaining Grand Slam titles. Djokovic does not seem capable of reclaiming the aura of invincibility that was his at this time last year.
At the end of 2016, Andy Murray had wrested the No.1 ranking away from Djokovic, a feat that seemed improbable at the end of the 2016 US Open where Djokovic was a beaten finalist. Murray’s ascendancy was confirmed by his straight sets win over the Serbian at the ATP Tour Finals in London.
Serena Williams had been beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals of the US Open and did not compete in the WTA Finals in Singapore which were surprisingly won by former Australian Open finalist, Dominica Cibulkova who beat the favoured Radwanska in the final.
In team tennis Argentina rallied from 1-2 down in the final of the Davis Cup to claim their first title with a heroic 3-2 win against Croatia in Zagreb. In the fourth match Juan Del-Potro came from two sets to love down to defeat Marin Cilic to provide the impetus for an unlikely victory. Later in the year Denmark had an improbable first victory in the World Cup of Golf played in Melbourne.
The Czech Republic defeated France 3-2 to again win the Federation Cup, but everyone in the tennis world felt a sense of loss when a burglar slashed Petra Kvitova’s tennis-playing left hand just before Christmas, ruling her out of tournament play for many months.
Towards its end 2016 became the year that everyone wished to end as quickly as possible and some did not wait until year’s end to make either their temporal or political departures. Fidel Castro died on 25th November which was an early Christmas present for those seeking freedom in his country. Castro’s death prompted an outpouring of panegyric praise from many deluded world leaders, led by Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Neither Trudeau nor any of the other Castro apologists lived for a day under his dictatorship.
The King of Thailand King of Thailand, Bhumipol Aulyadej died in October, aged 88, after 70 years on the throne, having become King after the mysterious and still unsolved death of his older brother. The 64-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is Thailand’s next King. Prince Charles remains the world’s oldest heir presumptive having been born in 1948. New Zealand’s popular Prime Minister, John Key, announced his surprise resignation in early December after eight years in office. In response our Prime Minister tweeted, “Say it isn’t so, bro”. Given that Bob Dylan was announced as the Nobel Laureate for Literature towards year’s end, I suppose our leader’s post-modern tosh must be considered acceptable. The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, joined the David Cameron club of Prime Ministers who asked people for support in a referendum. Mr. Cameron wanted a ‘No’ vote to Brexit, whilst Mr. Renzi wanted a ‘Yes’ vote to support constitutional change. Neither received what they needed, so both had to go!
John Glenn, the pioneering American astronaut and Senator, who dubbed Perth the City of Lights as he circumnavigated the world in 1962, died in early December. Later in 1962 Castro and Khrushchev did their best to turn off all of the lights of the world by precipitating the Cuban Missile crisis.
There was a trifecta of celebrity deaths during Christmas: Wham’s George Michael died on Christmas Day, Carrie Fisher who will always be remembered as Princess Leah in Star Wars left spaceship Earth on 27th December, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the following day.
Ford Australia ceased production of cars in Australia in early October after decades of manufacturing. Until 1993, Ford was the chief sponsor of the Australian Open. Now the chief sponsor is the Korean carmaker Kia which tells us as much about the transformation of our tariff protected economy as anything else in recent history. Ross Higgins, a wonderful Australian comic, ironically died in the week of Ford’s closure. Holden had already announced plans to end production and no doubt Ross would have yelled out in his final hours, “not the Kingswood”!
Australia’s football Grand Finals saw a Sydney team come to Melbourne and lose the AFL Grand Final, with the Swans now having lost grand finals in a sequence of decades: 1996, 2006 and 2016.
Sporting events often produce eerie patterns of numbers: from 1969-1972 the winning Melbourne Cup saddlecloth numbers were 2, 4, 8 and 16 and Serena Williams has won six of her seven Australian Open titles in corresponding odd years: 2003, 2005,2007,2009,2015 and 2017.
In the NRL the Melbourne team went to Sydney and lost. However, no one could really complain as romantics celebrated the respective victories of the Western Bulldogs who won their first premiership since 1954 and the Cronulla Sharks who won their maiden flag.
It was once said that there was as much point as hoping for Cronulla to win a premiership as leaving the back light on for Harold Holt. Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of his disappearance, so who knows what may be revealed? There is probably more chance of the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of the former Prime Minister being solved than the Australian Senate acting responsibly, or the Federal government effecting necessary economic and industrial relations reform.
September, the mecca month for sporting finals in Australia, saw the passing of golfing legend and quintessential gentleman, Arnold Palmer, aged 87. Garrulous and genial former Test cricketer, Max ‘Tangles’ Walker, also died at the premature age of 68. He made the phrase “ave a good weekend and remember the Aerogard” part of our vernacular. On the day of his passing the gracious, generous and humane former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, took leave of the world aged 93.
There was nothing gentlemanly about Nick Kyrgios’ departure from the Shanghai Masters in mid-October. After having won the Japan Open by beating Belgium’s David Goffin in three sets, his questionable manners and attitude resurfaced in his second round loss in Shanghai where he swore and abused spectators and officials. In his post-match press conference Kyrgios declared that he “doesn’t owe anybody anything” and “just because he can hit a ball well over a net doesn’t mean anything and that people can choose to take it or leave it and if they don’t like it don’t buy a ticket”. He was immediately fined $21,000.00 and issued an apology that was neither from the heart nor the mind, but issued through social media, much like the American President’s endless series of Twitter messages. Kyrgios was subsequently suspended from the ATP Tour for eight weeks.
Female sporting stars earned much more respect from the public, especially champion mare Winx who extended her winning sequence to thirteen with an extraordinary eight length win to claim consecutive Cox Plates.
Australia’s male spectators were no more gracious. October’s Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix was won by Australia’s Daniel Riccardo. At his podium celebration, Riccardo graciously introduced the “shoey celebration”, which sees victory drinks being imbibed from a sweaty sports shoe, to the repertoire of manboys all around the world. Nine of Australia’s finest young ockers were present to celebrate Riccardo’s victory and did so by stripping to their Speedos which were emblazoned with the Malaysian flag. The ‘Budgie 9’ as they were quickly dubbed by the Australian media were arrested on charges of public nuisance and spent four nights in custody before being fined and returning to Australia after their puerile stunt. What did Barnaby Joyce once say? “In Australia you are either a bogan or a rich bogan.”
Speaking of Formula 1 the 2016 Championship was won by Nico Rosberg, emulating his father Keke who won the title in 1982 just as Damon Hill’s championship win in 1996 emulated his father’s win in 1968. I shall be happy to be corrected, but I believe that there have been no father/son/daughter or mother/son/daughter Grand Slam tennis champions.
Helena Sukova, daughter of Vera who was runner up in the Women’s Singles at Wimbledon in 1962, was runner up at both the Australian and US Open and Sandon Stolle, son of Fred, was runner up in three Grand Slam Men’s Doubles finals are those who have come closest. The couple who might be expected to have created a dynasty, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, deliberately chose not to build a tennis court at their family home. And pedigrees are not predictable. None of the offspring of Sunline, Makybe Diva or Black Caviar suggest they will come close to matching the feats of their respective mothers. Kim Clisters has just had her third child, Victoria Azarenka her first and Lindsay Davenport her fourth, so who knows?
Weird and tragic events continued to occur as 2016 moved to its end. In South Australia the entire State lost its power supply in late September after a vicious windstorm, which led to the inevitable political firestorm about who and what was responsible for the Statewide blackout.
In late October the Dreamworld amusement park on the Gold Coast became the place of nightmares when four people were killed in a water ride when their craft overturned and its passengers were dragged under the water. Speaking of being lost under water, the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 was officially cancelled, but President Obama found time to pardon a transgender (fully transitioned from Bradley to Chelsea whilst in gaol no less!) traitor before leaving office.
The Presidential election in America in early November once again proved that no one can accurately predict the outcome of a democratic process. Whilst the glorious uncertainty of democracy is the ultimate power of the free will of citizens, one always hope that a genuine democrat is elected. The early signs from President Trump’s White House are not encouraging. A graceless finger-waving harangue that masqueraded as an inaugural address and government by Executive Order is not the stuff upon which a great social contract is built. Even if fashionistas loved the ice-blue coat worn by the First Lady at the Inauguration ceremony, her haute couture does little to ameliorate the haunting feeling that the political inexperience and arrogance of the new President are combining in the worst possible way. Whatever happens next, the politics of the United States will no doubt keep us in ‘suspence’, and none more so than the Vice-President for a variety of reasons.
On the tennis courts of the world, Murray’s victory in the ATP Championship final in November in London took him closer to his knighthood. After claiming a second Wimbledon and a second Olympic Gold medal in 2016, he became the first Briton-or should that more accurately be Scotsman? - to be ranked as the world’s best tennis player since rankings were introduced in 1973.
Despite losing to Djokovic in a close three set final in Qatar in January, Murray was a firm favourite to win his first Australian Open after losing five previous finals.
A maiden victory in Australia would mean that Sir Andy would join the ‘Three out of Four’ club, being players who have won three of the four Grand Slam titles. So confident was I that Murray would join this clique that I compiled the current membership list, which I feel compelled to share:
MEN MISSING GRAND SLAM TITLE
Jean Borotra US Open
Rene Lacoste Australian Open
Henri Cochet Australian Open
Frank Sedgman French Open
Tony Trabert Australian Open
Lew Hoad US Open
Ken Rosewall Wimbledon
Ashley Cooper French Open
Guillermo Vilas Wimbledon
Arthur Ashe French Open
John Newcombe French Open
Jimmy Connors French Open
Stefan Edberg French Open
Boris Becker French Open
Pete Sampras French Open
Ivan Lendl Wimbledon
Stan Wawrinka* Wimbledon
*remarkably, Stan has only played in three Grand Slam finals, won them all and they have been the three different Grand Slam tournaments of Melbourne, Paris and New York
WOMEN MISSING GRAND SLAM TITLE
Helen Wills-Moody Australian Open
Shirley Fry Wimbledon
Louise Brough French Open
Angela Mortimer US Open
Althea Gibson Australian Open
Virginia Wade French Open
Evonne Goolagong US Open
Hana Mandlikova Wimbledon
Martina Hingis French Open
Monica Seles Wimbledon
Lindsay Davenport French Open
Justin Henin-Hardenne Wimbledon
The lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open suggested that a thorough changing of the world’s tennis guard may finally happen. Milos Raonic beat Nadal in Brisbane, before losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the final, but the two young men hinted at future greatness.
So did Pliskova who easily won the Women’s title in the steamy Sunshine State. Serena Williams was bundled out early in Auckland, but may have had other matters on her mind as she announced her engagement to website mogul Alexis Ohanian. Also distracted from tennis, but this time permanently, was Ana Ivanovic, who won the French Open and was runner-up at the Australian Open in 2008, who announced her retirement from the game. She has chosen a sporting husband with her spouse being German footballer, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Roger Federer played in the Hopman Cup, but lost a match to Germany’s Alexander Zverev. Johanna Konta, born in the northern beaches of Sydney, but now a British citizen emphatically won the Sydney title and Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller beat Britain’s Dan Evans in the Men’s final.
After my last published predictions, one is loath to offer more; however, this year’s Australian Open surely proved that the Grand Slam dream is over for Simone Halep, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Gail Monfils and Agnes Radwanska.
The Australian Open dream ended surprisingly early for the top two Men’s seeds, with Djokovic losing in the second round to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin and Andy Murray losing on the first Sunday of the tournament to Alexander Zverev’s older brother, Mischa. On the previous day Nadal won a five set match against the younger brother. Also on the first Sunday, the Women’s top seed and defending champion, Angelique Kerber, was beaten in straight sets by unseeded American, Coco Vandeweghe. Coco is a player of genuine talent and power, but I suspect if she weighed a little less, her promise could be realised. She reminds me of Martina Navratilova in the early 1980s before the Czech defector embarked on a training regimen that galvanised her potential.
Without wanting to search the record books, I suspect that the defeat of Murray and Kerber is the first time in Grand Slam history that a tournament’s top two singles’ seeds have both been beaten by unseeded players on the same day in the first week.
There were no surprise early exits for the Australian players, just the ones we are used to. Bernard Tomic was the only Australian male to make it to the round of 32, but lost to Dan Evans in straight sets. Kyrgios squandered a two set lead in the second round against Italy’s journeyman, Andreas Seppi, losing 8-10 in the fifth set. Sam Stosur had another inglorious first round loss and the newly nationalised Daria Gavrilova advanced to the fourth round before losing easily to Pliskova. Ashleigh Barty, on the comeback trail, showed spirit in reaching the third round. No doubt Tomic’s exhaustion from his exertions prevented him from playing Davis Cup for Australia the week after the Open.
One could have been forgiven for not caring about any of the results on the Open’s first weekend after hideous events in Melbourne the day before. An angry young man led police on a chase through the city after viciously assaulting his brother in the early hours of Friday morning and taking a female hostage, before evicting her from his car. Police were either unable or reluctant to forcefully restrain him or his vehicle, even after he drove to the city’s major intersection and performed a series of spinouts. He then proceeded to drive his car through the city’s busiest pedestrian mall. His maniacal spree left six people dead. A predictable narrative about collective grief was occasionally punctuated by a necessary discussion of why the police force, entrusted as it is to protect life and liberty, too often feels constrained to do so.
Early in the Open’s second week, the planets started to align for the improbable pairing of a Williams v Williams and Federer v Nadal final. Murray’s defeat meant that Roger did not have to face him in a quarter-final. Federer easily beat Zverev and then beat Wawrinka in five sets in their semi-final. Watching the two Swiss play each other reminded me of watching Sabatini vs Graf in the 1990s. One always thought that Sabatini could challenge Graf, but would only rarely test and/or beat her.
So it is with Wawrinka. Whilst he may be fearless against Djokovic, Wawrinka always appears somewhat overawed by Federer’s presence. Federer reached his first Australian Open final since 2010 and now had the opportunity to win his first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012 and join Martina and Chris Evert with 18 Grand Slam victories and Jack Nicklaus who won 18 major golf tournaments.
Nadal beat Raonic in straight sets in their quarter-final, reversing the outcome of their Brisbane match. Raonic should have won the second set and should have done better. He is ranked third in the world, but he conspicuously lacks the resolve needed to win a first Grand Slam title. Why should he bother? He has won 8 ATP titles and has already earned over $8,000,000.00 in prizemoney. GQ made Raonic their cover boy after his loss in last year’s Wimbledon final. The four musketeers play for tennis immortality, whereas the Raonics of the tennis world seem to be content with the mortal trappings, generous as they are in the world of tennis, although nothing compares with Christiano Ronaldo’s latest soccer contract. The Portugese hero will earn $73,000,000(Aus) a season for five years. It means the star striker’s total five-year payment could pay the wages of every player in the AFL (around $200m) and the NRL (around $110m) for a season and still have more than $50m left over.
Let’s attempt to return to reality. The best match of the tournament-male or female, singles or doubles-was Nadal’s five set semi-final win against Dimitrov. It was a genuinely pulsating contest, played gallantly and bravely for close to five hours. One hopes that Dimitrov can be inspired by his performance, not deflated. Nadal was ecstatic at reaching his first Australian Open final since 2014, which was also his first Grand Slam final against Federer since the 2011 French Open and his first Grand Slam final since winning the French Open in 2014.
Coco Vandeweghe proved her win against Kerber was no fluke. Having despatched the reigning Australian and US Open champion, she was no less ruthless in beating reigning French Champion, Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-0 in their quarter-final. They say that age and experience bests youth and enthusiasm and so it proved in Coco’s semi-final loss to Venus Williams. After winning the first set in a tie-break, Coco’s confidence wilted as a wily Venus planted seeds of doubt in her opponent’s mind. Venus’ unlikely win meant that she would play in her first Australian Open final since 2003 and her first Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009.
Her sister Serena did not drop a set en-route to the final. Her quarter-final match against Sydney champion, Konta, was predicted to be an acid test, but it was the Brit who dissolved. Serena’s semi-final opponent was expected to be Pliskova in a rematch of their US Open semi-final. However, Pliskova was upset by the veteran Croatian, Mirjana Luci-Baroni, who was a prodigious talent in the late 1990s, reaching the Wimbledon semi-final in 1999. Baroni had made no Grand Slam semi-final since then and had last played Serena in 1998! Serena waltzed through the semi-final to set up another sisterly showdown.
Clearly, these unexpected finals were meant to be. It was to be the ninth Grand Final contest between the Williams sisters and the ninth Grand Slam final between Federer and Nadal, the most between two men in the Open Era. The combined age of the Women’s finalists was 71 and the Men’s a spritelier 65. It was the first time that Williams v Williams and Federer v Nadal had been the drawcard matches since Wimbledon in 2008.
Outside of the singles’ draw the Open had some remarkable results. In the Mixed Doubles America’s Abigail Spears, another 35-year-old veteran, won her first Grand Slam title with Colombia’s Juan Cabal.
By winning his first Grand Slam title, Cabal became the first Colombian to win a title at the Australian Open and only the second Colombian to ever win a Grand Slam title, the other being Ivan Molina who won the Mixed Doubles in Paris with Martina Navratilova in 1974.
The Men’s Doubles had a similar result. Australia’s John Peers who was runner up in the Wimbledon and US Open doubles finals in 2015, when playing with Andy Murray’s brother Jamie, teamed with Finland’s Henri Kontinen to defeat the Bryan brothers who were aiming for their seventeenth Grand Slam title. It was Peers’ first Grand Slam title and a fillip for local recognition. Kontinen is the first Finnish player to win a title at the Australian Open and the only Finn to have ever enjoyed Grand Slam success, having also won the Mixed Doubles title at Wimbledon in 2016 playing with England’s Heather Watson.
In the Women’s Doubles Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won their second Australian title and have now won four Grand Slam finals, but still need a Wimbledon title to complete their Grand Slam collection.
To gain a sense of the dominance of the established order at the Open, consider the following: there are 16 finalists in the 5 major events at a Grand Slam event- 4 singles players and 12 doubles players. This year the four singles’ finalists and the Bryan brothers entered their finals having won 76 Grand Slam titles between them: Serena 22 + Federer 17 + Bryan Brothers 16 + Nadal 14 + Venus 7. The remaining 10 players between them had won 11- Sania Mirza 6 + Mattek Sands/Safarova 3 + Ivan Dodig 1 + Kontinen 1 + Peers 0 + Spears 0 + Cabal 0.
Serena became the most successful player-male or female-of the Open era by winning the Women’s final. Her straight sets victory over Venus took her past Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam titles. She is now only one title behind Margaret Court’s tally of 24, 11 of which were won in the amateur years before 1968. The Women’s final was an entirely forgettable match, littered as it was with unforced errors, poor serving and few compelling contests. A rally in the final game of the match was the only one that was worthy of a Grand Slam final. Serena has now won seven of her Grand Slam titles against Venus. Serena has argued that she should be known as the greatest tennis player, male or female. She is yet to convince me. I still rank her behind Graf and Navratilova and equal with Seles.
The Men’s final went the distance, but I was surprised that it did. Before the match I was asked by a great observer of the sporting world for my tip by text message. I replied that “the crowd would take Federer over the line against a tiring Nadal”. At critical moments Federer was able to string together more winners and served better, with twenty aces to Nadal’s four. Nadal, who had one day less to recover for the match than Federer, was as courageous as ever, but was unable to deliver a coup de grace when leading 3-1 in the final set. Federer, as he did against Wawrinka in their semi-final, saved his best tennis for the final stanzas of the match. After the match Federer’s graciousness towards Nadal was touching. I suspect that, like the rest of us, Federer was wondering whether there will be another Federer/Nadal Grand Slam final. Both players were aware of what they had achieved in making the final after recovering from their respective injuries.
The opportunity to see Rod Laver present the trophies to two remarkable champions was another moment to cherish. If Pete Sampras had been alongside Laver, Federer and Nadal there would have been on the presentation dais the four players that John McEnroe rates as the greatest men in the game’s history. Given McEnroe’s prescient comments about Nick Kyrgios’ dilemmas earlier in the tournament, one has to defer to his judgement. Mind you, if I needed a man to execute a half-volley to save my life I would choose McEnroe ahead of all others.
Federer’s fifth Australian Open title took his Grand Slam tally to a much coveted 18 (5 Australian, 1 French, 7 Wimbledon and 5 US Opens) in the same week that Usain Bolt was stripped of one of his Olympic relay gold medals to reduce his tally to 8.
Is Federer the greatest male player of all time? Well, he probably is against everyone, except Nadal. The Spaniard still holds a 6-3 edge in their Grand Slam finals and an overall lead of 23-12 in all their matches.
Despite his third loss in an Australian Open final, Nadal must be emboldened about his chances of winning a tenth French Open in June, by which time France will have chosen their next President, who is likely to be either Francois Fillon of the Centre Right, if he can survive current allegations of feathering his family’s nest, or Marie Le-Pen of the extreme Right.
The Open was held against the backdrop of President Trump’s inauguration and, as always, provided much distraction from the real politics and events of the world. This year, arguably unlike any other, the Open provided many historic, if not surprising, legacies for the game.
Speaking of Presidents, 2017 is the centenary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. During the Open I went to see the film, Jackie, which focusses on the life of Jackie Kennedy in the days immediately after her husband’s assassination. Like a great Grand Slam tournament, the film’s best scenes were played out towards its end.
For me the finest dialogue of the film is between Jackie and a priest, played by John Hurt, whose performance is made even more poignant by his death last week. In trying to provide comfort to a despairing Jackie, John Hurt’s character observes that “God does not provide us with all the answers, but he does provide us with enough to keep going”.
My guest at the film was my wife’s Godmother, Dr. Margaret Smith, who is a remarkable woman. It would take another essay to outline her profound intelligence and extraordinary achievements, especially in the field of obstetrics and endocrinology. I shall always be grateful to her for introducing me to the poems of John Spender, with her favourite being, ‘The Truly Great’.
Spender’s observations could well apply to Nadal, Federer and Serena:
I think continually of those who were truly great…
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour
On the night of the Men’s Final the sunset over Perth was exquisite. Ribbons of cloud shimmered orange, turning a simmering red before nightfall. It was a vivid and fiery sight that was entirely appropriate at the end of a fortnight when the heart and skills of Nadal, Federer and Serena further enhanced their collective honour and place amongst the truly great. God may provide us with “just enough” on most days, but during the Australian Open we were provided with the eternal and unforgettable.