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  • lydiajulian1

"Two dozen to go for one and one to start for another"

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Speaking of Serena, America’s Coco Gauff, fresh from an indifferent summer won the Women’s title at Cincinnati. Often touted as America’s next great hope, the burden of being either the next Serena or Venus, who is still playing at 43, has often seemed to hinder Gauff who has now won her most important title”

“The US Open will, no doubt, provide us with further slivers of greatness. We know what’s at stake for the relentless Serbian.”


Sometimes, omens and predictions come true! And, as always, the US Open certainly had its fair share of politics. The tournament feverishly promoted that it was the 50th anniversary of the event adopting equal pay for its male and female tournaments. Environmental activists glued themselves to the concrete stands, causing a Women’s semi-final to be suspended.

For Billie-Jean King, long considered the champion of equal pay for women, it must have been a particularly satisfying fortnight. Presenting the trophy to the new Women’s champion, Coco Gauff, Billie-Jean dressed in her trademark suffragette purple, must have reflected on the many strands of equality the US Open can claim to demonstrate. The last four female American champions have all been African-American- Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Serena and Venus.

In the ominous days before the outbreak of World War One, Russia was seen as the powerful ally that would protect Serbia, even at the cost of triggering a European war against Germany.

On the tennis courts of New York, Serbia has proven to be the more resolute of the two nations with Novak Djokovic avenging his loss to Russia’s Medvedev two years ago to claim a fourth US Open Crown and a 24th Grand Slam title. On the basketball court at the World Championships ,that took place contemporaneously with the Open, Serbia, however, could not overpower Germany in the final. Germany had stunned the basketball world by defeating the seemingly invincible America in their semi-final. Basketball certainly had its influence on this year’s Open.

23 is a prime number. For so long in the sporting world it seemed to be a number that no-one could surpass in the professional era. Michael Jordan elevated the number to legendary status playing for the Chicago Bulls. Australia’s greatest cricket bowler, Shane Warne, wore number 23, in deference to Jordan. Serena Williams finished her career with 23 Grand Slam titles in the Open era. Now Novak Djokovic has broken the barrier. 24 is now the number of choice with Djokovic donning a t-shirt with images of him and another great basketballer, Kobe Bryant, who wore No.24 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Basketball is an absurdly rich sport, but Saudi Arabia is richer. It seems that Saudi Arabian oil money is intent on luring all sports to its shores, with the announcement that Jeddah will host the NextGen ATP finals in November.

So, here is the question that Djokovic will no doubt be asked: would he preferred to have won his fourth US Open title two years ago and completed the Grand Slam by doing so, or is becoming the most successful male or female Grand Slam singles champion of the Open Era sufficient compensation?

Djokovic’s victory -a fourth from ten US Open and thirty six Grand Slam finals-has underscored his return to the top of the tennis rankings. There can be no argument about this. Despite the fizz that Alcaraz has generated, the facts speak for themselves. This year Djokovic has played in all four Grand Slam finals, only being denied even greater glory in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final.

His refusal to not diminish his place in the tennis pantheon was seen in the second set of the final. It lasted 100 minutes. It was attrition and arm wrestling all in one. Now the oldest man to win the title in the Open Era, Djokovic exhausted Medvedev in the tie-break.

The third set was, for Medvedev, mercifully brief. Medvedev, always one for self-deprecating humour, paid tribute to Djokovic’s dynastic hold on the game. At the presentation ceremony, he commented “ I have won 20 titles, you have won 24 Grand Slams. Wow.”

For Coco Gauff, her Grand Slam odyssey is beginning. It was a fitting final with Gauff and Belarus’ Sabalenka being the only two women to have played in two Grand Slam finals this year. Gauff’s victory, her first Grand Slam title, continues an extraordinary sequence. Since 2017 there have been four different female Grand Slam champions every year* (*three different champions in 2020 when no Wimbledon played).

The US Open has now had nine different female singles’ champions in the last ten years. Only Naomi Osaka- remember her?- has been a dual champion during this decade.

At the Australian Open, I witnessed a rather listless Gauff lose to Ostapenko. She lost in the first round at Wimbledon after reaching the French Open final. Under new coach, Brad Gilbert, Gauff has developed her confidence. The power of her hitting and relentless retrieval of balls wore down Sabalenka, who was also battling a rabidly pro-American crowd.

Sabalenka, champion in Australia, and semi-finalist in Paris and Wimbledon, has objectively been the most consistent of all players. Her consolation from defeat is that she has gained the No.1 world ranking, but doubts remain about her match temperament.

In the Doubles’ world Australia’s Matt Ebden made it to the final, but he and Rohan Bopanna could not deny America’s Rajeev Ram and England’s Joe Salisbury winning their third consecutive title. Remarkably, the last time the same male pairing won a hat-trick of US titles was when Maurice McLoughlin and Thomas Bundy were victorious from 1912-1914.

New York’s reputation as a tournament for cosmopolitan victories was reinforced by the Mixed Doubles success of unseeded pairing Anna Danilina and Harri Heliovaara from Kazakhstan and Finland, who toppled America’s No.1 seeds, Austin Krajicek, a distant cousin of former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek and Jessica Pegula.

For Pegula it was an uncomfortable end to a tournament, where seeded third in the singles she was unable, once again , to proceed beyond her career best Grand Slam finish of the quarter-finals , losing in the fourth round to American Madison Keys. America also had hopes in the Men’s Singles with an all American quarter-final between Francis Tiafoe and Ben Shelton, and Taylor Fritz playing Djokovic in another. The next American wave is yet to sweep all before it. Andy Roddick remains America’s last Men’s champion winning his only Grand Slam in 2003.

The finals of the US Open now take place close to the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is hard to believe that 22 years have passed since America's most deadly domestic attack. Close to 2,500 people died in the attacks. The caprice of nature, not the malice of man, has seen earthquakes in Morocco claim as many lives and probably more.

And then there have been devastating floods in Libya that may have swept over 10,000 people to their death in a moment of Malthusian mayhem.

Another anniversary of note at time of US Open is the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, who died on 31st August, 1997, alongside her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in a car crash in Paris. Eerily, the father of Dodi Fayed, Al Fayed, died on the eve of the anniversary of Diana’s death in London aged 94. Not to forget that the first anniversary of the Queen’s death was September 8th.

People pass on, but legacies remain. For mine, the death of Diana has not lost its sting as the Royal family still grapples with her legacy. King Charles III could only be described as a muted monarch. His heirs and successors remain physically and culturally divided across the Atlantic.

At the end of another Grand Slam year, tennis pundits often consider which Slam has the greatest influence of all. Where does the US Open sit in the eyes of the tennis world?

Australians often reflect on the broader political relationship between their nation and America. Is Australia effectively an overly subservient 51st state? There are many similarities between the nations: both have federal constitutional models of government, a constitutionally enshrined separation of powers doctrine, a House of Representatives and a State-based Senate and a powerful highest court in the land who can alone interpret the Constitution.

More recently, many a commentator has argued that the tenor of Australian politics is sliding towards the brutal, personal partisanship that has taken sway in America. It used to be that the impeachment of a President was considered an almost supernatural event, only defensible if a President was a Guy Fawkes type seeking to blow up the White House. The threat of impeachment was enough to make Richard Nixon the first President to resign from office. Fast forward fifty years and we are witnessing politicised moves to impeach the incumbent President, which are no doubt inspired by the Republican party seeking to avenge the Democrat led double impeachment of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, two of the world’s most menacing and despotic leaders are blithely able to meet in Eastern Russia.

Australia’s Parliament cannot impeach our Prime Ministers. Worryingly, however, it seems we can embrace the worst of American political vitriol. Remember that moment in the 2016 election campaign when Hilary Clinton described “half of Trump’s supporters” as “deplorables”?

Halfway through Australia’s referendum debate on the proposed ‘Voice to Parliament,’ a leading advocate of the ‘Yes’ case, Professor Marcia Langton has declared that the only reasons for voting ‘No’ could be “base racism” or “sheer stupidity.” Attacking personal qualities of voters is not a tactic that has proved overly successful in the past.

Great politics and politicians, like great tennis players, demonstrate inspiration and ability, not denigration and hostility.

Another Grand Slam year ends. In New York, form and greatness prevailed. Having “made it” in New York, the question now for Gauff is “can she make it everywhere?”

For Djokovic, the question is how many more historic peaks does he wish to scale? Will his legs support and carry him to an eleventh Australian Open title in January? If they do, he will equal Margaret Court’s number of singles titles at the Australian Open and move him one ahead of her in the all-time league of Grand Slam champions. It is the type of challenge that the redoubtable Serb will find hard to resist.

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