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  • Julian Dowse

French Open 2016

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well, there is certainly a more than a touch of French plus ca change in the air at the moment. Indeed, one could think that recent events have taken us back to the parallel universe of the 1980s. A celebrity stands, well with some difficulty, accused of murdering his girlfriend in a violent rage. It is not OJ, but Oscar. A dingo has not taken another baby at Uluru, but an alligator has in Florida. A deranged fan has sought out and killed a music star. Not John Lennon this time, but Christina Rimmie. There is a bad boy playing at Queens, but it is not John McEnroe, but two of Australia’s finest in Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic. The Boomtown Rats sang about a school massacre wondering why the assassin did not like Mondays. Orlando’s citizens mourn, wondering why Omar hated gays. We are in the middle of an election campaign that is remarkably similar to 1980, when the incumbent Prime Minister, the recently departed Malcolm Fraser, saw his government returned with a reduced majority after a long campaign that began with the ABC being excited about the prospect of an upset ALP victory. The Liberal Party are still engaged in the eternal ideological struggle between the “wets and dries” that began with the Peacock and Howard rivalry thirty years ago and is now carried on through the prism of Abbott and Turnbull. The death of Nancy Reagan, President Reagan’s widow, at the age of 94 was a reminder of his 1980s presidency.

The more recent death of Muhammed Ali evoked a sporting era when even in the early 1980s the fight for the heavyweight boxing title was one of the world’s premier sporting interests.

Roger “rogue copper” Rogerson has further cemented our memory of the 1980s through being recently convicted of murdering an operative of the drug world. There is something bizarrely sinister about a man aged seventy-five being unapologetic about being a cold-blooded killer. Mind you Bronwyn Bishop wanting to continue as the member for Mackellar at the age of 72 after her rorting of the public purse evoked similar strains of disbelief about the hubris of which some humans are capable. The Soviet Union may be a relic of the 1980s, but the Russian penchant for doping their athletes continues unabated. Even removing Maria Sharapova to the Nike sponsored atmosphere of Florida could not prevent national predilections ruining her career.

The French Open itself is a tournament that drags one back to the past. The Roland Garros stadium is the only Grand Slam venue that has not undergone major structural change in the last thirty years. Its absence of a roof was clearly noted as Paris endured an especially soggy fortnight. Parisian vive la difference seeks to compensate for the lack of a roof by being the only tournament that allows its spectators to carry and use umbrellas whilst watching games. And for how many more years are we going to watch the absurd theatre of a central umpire descending from their chair to adjudge whether a ball was in or out without the benefit of technology, when spectators at home, courtesy of Hawkeye, know the answer?

Watching the French Open also reminds us that not since Yannick Noah’s victory in 1983 has a Frenchman won the Men’s Singles title. Given that I never think of Mary Pierce as a true Frenchwoman, the last French woman to win their national crown was Francoise Durr in 1967. For Australians, we have to remember the hometown victories of Mark Edmondson in 1976 and Christine O’Neill in 1978, but at least we have a better stadium in which to contemplate past glories.

Notwithstanding a certain lack of frisson of excitement on Parisian tennis courts, genuinely startling sporting change was taking place all around the world. Leicester City had just won its first English Premier League Soccer title in one hundred and thirty-two years. Ireland defeated South Africa in Rugby in South Africa for the first time in history. On a parochial note the West Coast Eagles managed just a fortnight after the French Open to not score anything in a quarter of football on their home ground for the first time in their thirty-year history.

The Australian of the Year, Major-General Politically Correct Social Engineer David Morrison, who pipped a transgender fellow officer for the role, proclaimed that “guys” is an offensive term to women. Therefore, it seems appropriate that the AFL has decided to sanction the introduction of an Australian Women’s Football League. Why should the quest for equality prevent the introduction of a perverse sporting contest? Hands up all those men who really want their daughters to play the game?

Radical political change was also in the ether. After having spent the early 1970s debating whether to join the European Union, Britons were preparing to vote on whether to exit the Brussels bureaucracy, a campaign scarred by the assassination of a sitting MP.

When Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983 the most successful male player in Grand Slam history was Roy Emerson with 12 Grand Slam titles to his name. Fast forward to 2016 and Emerson has been joined by Djokovic (one French) and surpassed by Nadal on 14 (nine French), Sampras on 14 (zero French) and Federer on 17 (one French). In 1983 the most successful female player in Grand Slam history was Margaret Court on 24 titles (five French). She still is. Neither Steffi Graf on 22 (six French) nor Serena Williams on 21 (three French) had won a Grand Slam title in the year that Bob Hawke became our Prime Minister. The 1983 French Women’s Champion was Chris Evert who won her fifth of seven French titles en route to a career tally of 18. Martina Navratilova lost her only match of 1983 in the fourth round to Kathy Horvath. She also ended with a career tally of 18 Grand Slam singles titles. One wonders whether the absence of either Chris or Martina would have guaranteed the other a record haul of singles titles. Is it too romantic to say that the world was better graced by their 80 match rivalry (MN 43-CE 37) than by one of them being overwhelmingly dominant?

Even more remarkable is that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer -three of the most successful male players of all time- have played alongside each other, with Andy Murray threatening to occupy a parallel place in the pantheon. Murray has now played in ten Grand Slam finals, including one at every Grand Slam tournament. He joins Fred Stolle and Jim Courier as having played in a set of Grand Slam finals, but, like them, having won only two of the tournaments. The Big Four have now won a staggering 41 of the last 46 Grand Slam tournaments. At least one of the quartet has appeared in 44 of those 46 matches. You have to look back to Hewitt v Safin at the Australian Open in 2005 and Cilic v Nishikori at the US Open in 2014 to find the exceptions to the rule.

What is even more mesmerising about the Big Four is that they keep creating extraordinary new records. Djokovic’s first triumph at Paris has added to that tradition. He may still trail Federer, Sampras and Nadal on the tally list, but by simultaneously holding all four Grand Slam titles, he now has achieved something that neither of them could. It is a calendar Slam worthy of the grandest recognition. The newspaper headlines containing puns about the Joker holding all four aces were fitting. Not since Rod Laver’s second slam in 1969 (when three of the four tournaments were played on grass and the Masters circuit did not exist) has a male player been so dominant. Djokovic has appeared in the last six Grand Slam finals, winning five of them.

As predictable as the Men’s game has become, the Women’s game has become positively fickle. With the victory of Garbine Muguruza in Paris, the last three female Grand Slam titles have been won by players (Panetta, Kerber and Muguruza) whose victories have been their first Grand Slam titles. This does not occur very often. The 2004 Mysinka (French), Sharapova (Wimbledon) and Kuznetsova (US Open) and the 2011 Kvitova (Wimbledon), Stosur (US Open) and Azarenka (2012 Australian) sequences are the other two of the Open Era.

After the Australian Open, political life in Australia resumed its intensity for this election year. Western Australia’s Labor Senator Joe Bullock evoked the memories of the ALP of Arthur Calwell when he announced he was quitting his Senate seat because he could not accept the ALP’s policy on supporting same-sex marriage. Senator Bullock won his seat at the 2013 election and then retained it at Western Australia’s Senate by-election. He gained the top spot on the ALP Senate ticket after a factional brawl with sitting senator, Louise Pratt, who failed to retain her Senate seat. Bullock and Pratt perfectly represent the schizoid state of the modern ALP: Bullock, the male Catholic conservative unionist; Pratt, the openly gay progressive. Pratt’s partner is a woman who is nearing the end of her reassignment surgery to become a male. This raises the question of whether she can continue to claim to be a lesbian once the final dose of hormones perform their transformative magic. Anyway, the former Senator has now become a mother courtesy of a friendly donor and life goes on. Bill Shorten announced that Patrick Dodson, a well-regarded Aboriginal spokesman, would be his “captain’s pick” to replace Pratt. Recently Senator Nova Perris, who was Prime Minister’s Gillard’s “captain’s pick” to be one of the Northern Territory’s two Senators also quit the Senate after, like Bullock, less than one term in office.

Malcolm Turnbull wrestled with deciding where our next fleet of submarines will be built and who would build them. Early in the year it appeared that Tony Abbott was destined for a life of firing incendiary torpedoes as he sought to defend his government’s legacy. It was unedifying to see the former Prime Minister trapped in the psychological anger that saw him denying his fate, but that’s politics. Mr. Abbott also had to endure unsubtle accusations about his relationship with Peta Credlin in various accounts of the life and times of his government.

Not surprisingly, the government announced that the submarines would be built in South Australia with the expertise of the sclerotic French shipbuilding industry. The government has probably spent twenty billion more that it needs to, but I guess it is seen as money well spent to keep Christopher Pyne as the Member of Sturt.

For all of a fortnight there were attempts at a constructive national debate about taxation and economic reform, which even touched on returning certain spending and taxation powers to the States. Now there’s a novel idea- having a Federation where there is something for the States to do! Superannuation and negative gearing were the chief targets of discussion as our politicians once again failed to trust the electorate with the truth. The government is broke and looks like being that way for a few years to come. Until the country becomes more productive, the nation’s Budget will continue to be in deficit unless there are significant and sustained cuts to government expenditure and/or increases in taxation. As a supply sider from the 1980s I will always advocate promoting productivity and eliminating wasteful expenditure over increasing taxation. But I fear that most Australian politicians do not, as Mrs. Thatcher complained of members of her Cabinet, “have the courage for the fight”.

The sterile debate about penalty rates exemplifies Australia’s policy paralysis. Australia’s economy was once described to me by a member of the ANZ Bank’s Board as one that “is either the world’s quarry, the world’s farm or the world’s hotel”. So when commodity prices are low, the dollar is high and there is a drought, odds are we are headed for a recession. The Board Member said that Australia’s economic good fortune existed because Australia only needs one of the “quarry, farm or hotel” to be productive for our standard of living to be maintained.

Currently, commodity prices are low and farm exports are not spectacular. However, the recent collapse in our exchange rate has led to a surge in tourism both from overseas and intra-State travellers. Tourists do not have a Sabbath. Indeed, Saturdays and especially Sundays are their busiest days of the week.

Why then does Australia maintain a wages policy that pretends that Australians are devout observers and still regard Sunday as a day of rest? Fifty years ago, maybe. Today, everything is open on a Sunday, except many restaurants and small businesses that cannot afford to pay their staff required Sunday penalty rates. The Labor Party plays its hysterical and hypocritical tune: for them removing penalty rates will lower living standards and destroy families, but are equally shrill about deploring high rates of youth unemployment. The ALP is also want to depict every small business owner as a rapacious capitalist. Tell a tourist wandering around Perth on a Sunday unable to find anything open whether it would be a good thing for a youth to have a job and be learning some productive skills. Would a small business owner choose not to open if he or she could be productive? The Coalition is no better. They are scared that any discussion of the removal of penalty rates will see them portrayed as heartless and lacking an understanding of “ordinary Australians”.

Well, members of the Government and Opposition may you be reminded that the majority of ordinary Australians are in paid employment and are somewhat tired of the productive being forced to subsidise the inefficient and overly dependent in our society. It is a grim reflection on the dominance of the State in our lives that the ability of people to enter into a free contract to decide their mutually advantageous employment terms is so circumscribed that the State is actively discouraging the enterprise it needs to fill its coffers. The irony of having a body called Fair Work Australia regulating employment conditions should not be lost on us given that they preside over an industrial relations system that unfairly prevents too many youths from being able to work.

Maybe I am a little unfair about the onset of national policy paralysis. After all the Eastertide saw our State Ministers agree on national standards for the classification of free-range eggs that centre on hens having “meaningful access to grass”. I await the spawning of the bureaucracy to enforce these enlightened regulations- no doubt it will be ‘ova’ the top as it tours the country ensuring hens are radiating meaningfulness in all that they do.

Whatever you can say about the American Presidential race it does not suffer from the Australian timidity to debate substantial matters. The Mexican Wall proposed by Donald Trump is the new benchmark of political extravagance but, like many absurd propositions, its denunciation proves difficult for his opponents. Shortly after the French Open it became clear that this year’s Presidential contest will be between two of the least edifying candidates in American history. Hilary Clinton, running it seems to me to spite her husband more than anything else, is a political veteran of dubious integrity who displays no sense of humour and/or irony as she locks her righteous teeth into the glass ceiling. Donald Trump, is the impresario entrepreneur that only America could produce. Loud, crass, bombastic but sufficiently dextrous for the Centre-Left press to underestimate him, he runs a campaign based on populist analysis and response.

Thankfully, the tennis world, as it always does, continued to provide diversions. Shortly after the Australian Open, Angelique Kerber lost in Qatar as did Australia’s emerging star and great hope, Gavrilova. Djokovic continued his dominance recording his 700th career victory in Dubai, before retiring with an eye infection. Kyrgios avenged his Australian Open loss to Berdych in the Dubai quarter-final, before retiring with an injury against his nemesis, Wawrinka. Across in Acapulco Bernard Tomic lost the final to rising Swiss star, Dominic Thiem.

Australian hosted its first round Davis Cup tie at Kooyong against the United States on grass, reprising classic contests between the two nations in the 1950s. Hopes were high that Tomic and Kyrgios could return from different corners of the globe and spearhead the Australian campaign. However, their simmering feud re-emerged when Tomic accused Kyrgios of falsely claiming he was injured and unavailable to play the tie. Lleyton Hewitt, barely a month into his retirement, dusted off his racquet to play doubles, but it was to no avail as Australia lost 1-3. In other ties Djokovic and Murray won thrilling five set matches in the fifth rubbers of their respective ties to see Serbia and defending champion Great Britain progress to the next round, but last year’s finalist, Belgium, was a first round loser.

The Academy Awards are also an annual diversion worthy of note. This year’s edition proved once again to be a reflection of the concerns of the social progressives. After weeks of protest about the inadequate number of African-American nominations for the Awards, the Academy redeemed itself with an Oscars du jour as all contemporary causes were rewarded: a reprise of Mad Max won many awards confirming that violent post-modernism is now a mainstream art form and a film decrying the Catholic Church, Spotlight, won Best Picture. Leonardo di Caprio accepted his Best Actor Oscar and then lectured the world on the evils of climate change.

The Liberal Party in Australia kept the debate about gay marriage and rights alive by pre-selecting Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson for the safe Melbourne seat of Goldstein. Mr. Wilson will now join Mr. Zimmerman, the member for North Sydney, in the Parliament as the Liberals first openly gay MPs, something that would have been unimaginable in the era of Oscar Wilde. New Zealand did not quite embrace the progressive cause when it rejected the adoption of a new national flag, sans Union Jack.

There was a change in the golfing fortunes of Adam Scott who, playing in Florida, won his first golf tournament for nearly two years, but it was not a sufficient reversal of fortune to see him claim a second Masters title at Augusta. This year the Masters was won by an unexpected player, England’s Danny Willett, but there was some consolation for Australian golf as Jason Day rose to No.1 in the World Rankings. Unfortunately, rankings do not guarantee titles and Day had to watch Dustin Johnson win the US Open at the end of June. Johnson who has had publicised battles with “substance abuse and addiction” is the son-in-law of Canadian sporting legend, Wayne Gretzky.

The cuckoos of spring were out early as Rupert Murdoch married Jerry Hall. Rupert tied the knot for the fourth time. A horse called Tie the Knot won four successive Chipping Norton Stakes which is a fitting cause for celebration, unlike Murdoch and Hall’s narcissistic and meretricious nuptials.

Back to the tennis for some class. The cream rose to the top, but did not curdle in the steamy springtime heat of Indian Wells. Nadal reversed his Australian Open loss to Verdasco to earn the right to face Djokovic in a semi-final. Novak was too strong edging two games ahead in their rivalry with a 7-6 6-2 victory. Federer did not play in the tournament and Murray lost in the third round, with Wawrinka losing in the fourth. Tomic, retired yet again, this time against Raonic who was to be Djokovic’s opponent in the final.

In the Women’s’ draw Samantha Stosur lost in the fourth round to a resurgent Victoria Azarenka who played Serena Williams in the final, a match many expected to see at the Australian Open. Azarenka stunned Williams with a 6-4 6-4 victory, but Djokovic’s 6-2 6-0 rout of Raonic was even more emphatic.

President Obama, now firmly in his swansong phase, decided to travel further south than Indian Wells and become the first American President to visit Cuba since the beginnings of the Cold War. Not content to let his own voice deliver a message of rapprochement, the Rolling Stones came along for a concert.

Elsewhere noises around the world were predictably violent and random. There were terrorist attacks in Brussels that kill over thirty, fatal car bombings in Turkey and in Lahore terrorists attack Christian children celebrating Easter. The South African Parliament tried to impeach its President for corruption as did the Brazilian legislature and, more recently, the MPs of Papua New Guinea. Burma made progress to the creation of a democracy with the election of its first democratic government for fifty years. The nation’s Constitution bars the nation’s long imprisoned champion of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, from being the nation’s President, but she still managed to be allocated five portfolios in the nation’s Ministry.

The Miami Masters saw Djokovic and Azarenka reprise their victories in Indian Wells. Serena Williams surprisingly lost to Kuznetsova in the third round. Nadal lost in the second round. Azarenka beat Kerber in the semi-final, whilst Kyrgios was a semi-finalist beating Raonic en route before losing to Nishikori. Djokovic’s victory saw him claim a record 28th Masters 1000 Series victory.

The countdown to Roland Garros traditionally begins with the clay tournament in Monte Carlo. Suddenly everything old was new again as Nadal claimed his ninth Monte Carlo title and his first since 2013. He defeated Monfils in the final after beating Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Djokovic had a shock second round loss to Czech Jim Vesely and Roger Federer lost to his occasional nemesis, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, in a quarter-final. Nadal’s victory brought him level with Djokovic on the Masters 1000 Honour Roll.

April saw celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death who, strangely enough, died on his birthday. Memories of the Bard’s contribution to our culture did not move either David Cameron or President Obama to tears, but the death of musician Prince almost did. The Queen turned 90. Boris Johnson retired as London’s Mayor to campaign for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. His elected successor, Sadiq Khan, is London’s first Islamic Mayor. Not to be outdone Australians voted to award its Gold Logie for television’s ‘Best Personality’ to Islamic social commentator, Waleed Aly.

Having already won nine French Opens and nine Monte Carlo titles, Nadal completed a Continental clay trinity with his ninth victory in Barcelona, beating Nishikori in the final. In stark contrast to Nadal’s talent and tenacity, Bernard Tomic showed neither when, to use the vernacular, he “tanked” his first-round match in Barcelona against Fabio Fognini when he reversed the hold on his racquet when facing match point.

Neither Djokovic nor Federer played in Barcelona, but all of the Top Four were expected to play in Madrid, until injury saw Federer withdraw. In Madrid, which was preparing for the Champions League showdown between its two clubs, Real and Atletico, the pedigree of the perennial champions shone through. Kyrgios defeated Wawrinka in two tie-breaker sets in the second round, but lost to Nishikori in the quarter-finals. In the semi-finals Djokovic beat Nishikori and Murray recorded a rare victory against Nadal on clay, before losing to Djokovic in three sets in the final. As he has been want to do in recent months, Djokovic once again edged ahead of his great rivals with his 29th Masters title.

In the Women’s’ event in Madrid, Simone Halep showed some of her long anticipated promise by sweeping to the title defeating Sam Stosur en route and Cibulkova in the final.

The dress rehearsal for Paris always comes in Rome. Ominously, Serena Williams returned to the podium with an emphatic win against fellow American Marion Keys in the final. Keys had defeated last year’s Wimbledon finalist, Muguruza in the semi-final. Samantha Stosur lost to her fellow evergreen, Kuznetsova, but Gavrilova had a surprise win against Halep before also losing to Kuznetsova whose brave run was stopped by Serena in the semi-finals.

Nadal and Djokovic met for the forty-ninth time in their quarter final with Djokovic’s victory seeing him extend his winning record over Nadal to 26-23. Dominic Thiem upset Federer in third round, which left Andy Murray an easier passage to the final to meet Djokovic, who defeated Nishikori in a three set semi-final decided by a tie-break in the final set.

Against most predictions Murray recorded only his second victory over Djokovic in their last fourteen matches to win his first major title on clay. His victory also meant that they would be seeded to meet in the final in Paris. However, neither of them would have to play Federer who, shortly after Rome, announced his withdrawal from the French Open because of injury. This brought to an end an unprecedented run of 65 consecutive Grand Slam appearances that began with the 1999 US Open. Some have to withdraw and some have withdrawal forced upon them. Grant Hackett, Australia’s dual Olympic 1500 metre swimming champion, failed in his attempt to qualify for this year’s Olympic team. In drowning his sorrows, Hackett sought the company of Lleyton Hewitt, whose advice on post-sporting life should certainly have included not to board a plane the morning after a bad night before. There is nowhere to hide when you antagonise fellow passengers and can be filmed staggering into an arrival hall. Fortunately, this episode did not prevent John Bertrand from recently receiving an AO for improving the culture of Australia’s swimmers.

Attacks on English tourists on the Syrian coastline and the disappearance of an Air Egypt flight only served to heighten security fears in Paris, raw as it still was from recent terrorist attacks. A friend of mine was at Roland Garros to see Tomic lose his second round match and had to pass through four security checks between the railway station and the stadium. Tomic might well need a character check after letting his 19 year old Croatian opponent back into the game, but as Tomic reminded a heckler in Madrid when he retired after just three games in his second round match, “I’m 23 and worth ten million dollars.” All class. Kyrgios advanced to the third round in Paris but could not repeat his previous Grand Slam victories over Richard Gasquet.

Nadal had to withdraw from his beloved tournament after the second round because of a wrist injury. For only the second time in twelve years neither Federer nor Nadal were in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event.

Persistent rain saw the Seine swell, but made for a dismal, chilly and gloomy tournament. Despite playing in Scottish like conditions, Andy Murray had to come back from two sets to love down and two sets to one down in his first two matches. Djokovic also looked sluggish in his early matches, but only dropped one set before the quarter finals where he dismissed Berdych with ease as he did Thiem in their semi-final. Murray defeated defending champion, Wawrinka in their semi-final which was a victory as much for good taste as superior tennis given that Wawrinka wore would could only be described as a neon pineapple ensemble. Maybe he thought as defending champion that he had to wear a yellow top as is de rigueur for the leader in the Tour de France?

Samantha Stosur wound back the years to reach the semi-finals. She defeated Halep in a quarter-final that seemed to take almost three days to finish because of rain delays. However, the Australian was no match for Muguruza in the semi-final, who advanced to play Serena Williams in a rematch of the 2015 Wimbledon final.

With the withdrawal of Federer and the retirement of Nadal, there was a sense that the dynasties were changing, if not fading. The results in the Doubles tournaments confirmed as much. The Bryan brothers lost the Men’s final to all Spanish team of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (not brothers), thus denying the Americans another French title to add to the one they first won in 2002. The Lopez/Lopez victory, coming after they saved six match points in their quarter-final, means that there have been ten different winners of the Men’s Doubles title at the last ten Grand Slam tournaments. By contrast, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, sought their fourth successive title to complete a non-calendar Grand Slam, but lost in the third round. Some French pride was generated when the local team of Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia claimed the title. Martina Hingis did restore honour for the older generations when she teamed with Leander Paes to win the Mixed Doubles and give Leander a complete set of Grand Slam titles. For the record, Paes won his first Grand Slam Doubles title at Wimbledon in 1999 and his first Mixed Doubles title at the 2003 Australian Open.

When one types the surname Muguruza a red squiggle appears underneath to suggest an error. It may be that this name becomes so well known in the sporting world that Microsoft will recognise it as legitimate. Certainly Garbine’s performance in the final suggested she has the ability to be an enduring presence in the tennis world. Mind you, we said the same about Kvitova. The Venezuelan born Spaniard outplayed and outhit Williams from the back of the court. The accuracy and depth of her shots disconcerted Williams who seemed to be always half a step behind the play. Serena’s serve, so often her saviour, lacked its predictable power as she lost her second successive Grand Slam final in straight sets. Serena still remains one Grand Slam title short of equalling Steffi Graf’s Open record of 22 titles.

Last year Djokovic won the opening set of the Men’s final and then lost the match in four sets. This year he reversed it all. He lost the first set to Murray then careered away to win his first French title in four sets in his fourth final. The Slam was secured and Novak’s place in the tennis pantheon is assured. Murray, as always, was gracious and recognised his conqueror’s achievement. Murray, despite losing another Grand Slam final, could take pride in being the first Englishman to be a finalist in Paris since Fred Perry lost to the German von Cramm in 1936. The last female English finalist was Sue Barker who won the title in 1976. Two weeks later Murray created history by winning a fifth Queens Club title after coming from a set and 0-3 down to defeat Raonic, who is being coached by four-time Queens winner, John McEnroe. How well a feisty New Yorker will work with a relaxed and Zen like lad from Toronto is an interesting question. Dominic Thiem did not let his feet rest on his clay laurels either. After Paris he beat Federer in the semi-finals of the Stuttgart grass tournament and Kohlschreiber in a rain delayed final.

Wimbledon commences next Monday. Australia has ten more sleeps until its double dissolution election. One suspects that the list of semi-finalists in the Men’s draw will be easier to compile than those that will be elected to the new Senate. Nadal has announced his withdrawal from Wimbledon; it may well be time for the dual champion to read Psalm 119: 89-96 “I have seen that all perfection comes to an end: only your commandment has no bounds”.

Nevertheless, the tennis Gods are likely to oversee the continued domination of Djokovic and Murray. Notwithstanding the prospect of continuing his progress to a traditional Grand Slam with a fourth victory at Wimbledon, I believe that Djokovic will be vulnerable in the wake of his maiden French victory. Murray’s serve was especially potent in Paris and will be even more so on the grass at SW 19. Raonic has the potential to reach another Grand Slam semi-final and Federer’s talent, slightly tarnished as it is by the years, should take him far. It is hard to see Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet, Nishikori, Kyrgios and/or Tomic, a surprise semi-finalist at Queens, claiming the title. On the distaff side of the draw Serena must start favourite, but Muguruza, now ranked No.2 in the world, will be full of confidence. Kvitova is not playing well enough, Radwanska is not strong enough and Stosur and Halep are not consistent enough.

And on that note, with the winter solstice behind me, I retire to contemplate the ‘below the line’ seedings of my forthcoming Senate vote!

Julian Dowse

22nd June, 2016

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