“Has Serena one last spring in her step? Can Halep…win seven successive matches on a surface that is not her natural favourite?”
“Djokovic must start the favourite. Having been denied a second secular Slam in Paris, he will be keen not to fall further behind either Federer or Nadal in the honour roll of Grand Slam champions”
from French Open 2019- 14th June, 2019.
On Tournament’s Eve- 1st July
Good God, the world is strange. President Trump is promising to make Iran great again after imposing sanctions to make it economically weaker. Well, maybe if he is impeached and removed from office (highly unlikely, by the way) in Washington he can head to Tehran and take on a role there. Let’s face it: he has a better chance of being employed there than in the British embassy.
Boris Johnson, who may be England’s Prime Minister in a matter of days, recently separated from his wife, and is now living with his party’s Communications Director, a mere 24 years his junior- I suppose such a relationship provides Johnson with cross-generational support-is being urged to leave his residence in Camberwell (London, not the district within the electorate of Kooyong) because neighbours taped a row between the couple and sent it to The Guardian. Readers of The Guardian incensed in recent years by News Corporation’s hacking of mobile phones seem well satisfied that a sense of public interest ‘a la Assange’ warranted such an intrusion of privacy against one of their conservative opponents.
Is there anything worse than a righteous and selective application of principles? Israel Folau who has just begun what promises to be a highly publicised and lengthy legal dispute with the Australian Rugby Union, has been criticised for using ‘crowd funding’ media to raise money for his legal costs. Much of the criticism is based on the view that because Folau is a wealthy sportsman who owns several properties, he should not need such support. What is the underlying critique one wonders? Could it be that only certain people are deserving of public financial support because their views match the contemporary zeitgeist? Or is there a nasty touch of the politics of envy as well? Needless to say, the effect of ‘crowd funding’ organisations refusing to allow Folau to use their platforms was the raising of an even greater amount of money through alternative forums. Common sense may not be that common, but people can smell hypocrisy a mile away.
Meanwhile in Cairo, former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, who came to power in 2011 after the Arab Spring, recently collapsed in court and died whilst arraigned on a State sponsored trial. One can die of a broken heart and spirit. The Chinese Communist Party celebrated its 98th birthday today trying to manage an outbreak of democratic spirit in Hong Kong but shows no sign of lessening its insidious control of its population. Forget the reach of its tech companies; when you have time research the sinister effects of the Chinese government’s Orwellian ‘social credit’ policy, which has nothing to do with bringing credit to either society or individuals. The Chinese government’s use of the English language is staggering. As leaders of the G20 nations met in Japan, where Donald Trump lavished praise on Scott Morrison for his unexpected election victory, the Chinese ambassador to Australia said that whilst “no-one wins trade wars… China has the right to fight to the end.” In other words, no one can win, except China.
In the home of Wimbledon, English educators have had to apologise to students for the wording of a mathematical problem in a recent GCSE examination which required candidates to calculate the number of calories consumed by a fictional character. Concerns were raised that such a scenario may “trigger” anxiety amongst the overweight and those with eating disorders. Forget about the death of democracy in Egypt or fears about the abandonment of justice in Hong Kong, let’s worry about ‘fat shaming’! It is as banal as it is pointless. Enough is enough. Should the All England Lawn and Tennis Club remove Kipling’s famous reminder over the entrance to the Centre Court that “one must treat triumph and disaster, those two impostors, just the same” for fear of “triggering” fear of failure and/or anxiety?
Thankfully, some things continue to make sense. Wonder mare, Winx, is to be mated with the stallion, I am Invincible, which is what Winx could claim to be!
In the brief interlude between the clay of Paris, which would have been especially dusty when a heatwave affected Europe in late June, and the grass of Wimbledon, the world of tennis generated some further milestones.
By becoming the first female player to win three tournaments on the tour this year with victory on the grass courts of Birmingham Ashleigh Barty rose to the No.1 female ranking, joining her mentor and idol Evonne Goolagong, John Newcombe, Patrick Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt as the only Australians to be ranked No.1 in the world since the introduction of computer rankings.
Barty’s phenomenal achievement- remember it was only at the US Open last year that she won her first Grand Slam doubles title and was still regarded as a competent but not compelling singles player-came alongside a run of stellar achievements by Australian female athletes: Hannah Green won US PGA, which was first Australian victory in a golfing ‘major’ since Karrie Webb and Sally Fitzgibbons added her name to the Australian pantheon of female surfing champions. Whilst the Matildas did not provide the final jewel in the tiara at the Women’s World Cup of soccer, our female Netball and Cricket teams may well add further lustre to our sporting year.
Naomi Osaka, struggling on clay and especially on grass lost her No.1. ranking as the churn of players at the top level of female tennis continued. At Eastbourne, Karolina Pliskova, a former world no.1, but still without Grand Slam success, demonstrated her talent with emphatic wins against Bertens and Kerber, who had beaten Simona Halep in their quarter-final, in the semi-finals and final. Barty chose not to play at Eastbourne to rest a stress injury. Please allow me to refer to female players by their surnames only as Wimbledon for the first time in its history has directed that umpires not refer to players as either Miss or Mrs. Game, set and match for equality? Barty’s withdrawal from Eastbourne did not prevent her from being Wimbledon’s No.1 seed, the first Australian female to be ranked No.1 entering the tournament since Margaret Court in 1973.
However, the old guard of men continued to prevail. Roger Federer won his 10th Halle title for ATP Title No. 102. This grass court victory earned him No.2 seeding at Wimbledon, where the Club’s committee can exercise discretion in the ranking of the tournament’s seeds. Feliciano Lopez, aged 37, rode his wildcard at the Queens tournament to record his second victory in that event. Lopez teamed with the returning Andy Murray to win the doubles title. A former Queens’ champion, Sam Querrey made the Men’s final at Eastbourne, but lost to another American, Taylor Fritz.
Monday, Wimbledon Week 2- 8th July
Plus ca change indeed! Australia has only one player left in the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ draw. Only one Australian male player, John Millman, progressed to the third round where he lost to Querrey. Bernard Tomic was ignominiously stripped of his prizemoney for his first-round loss on the basis that he had not made a genuine effort in his straight-sets loss to Jo Wilfred-Tsonga. Nick Kyrgios lost a competitive second round match to Rafael Nadal in four sets, but not before reminding everyone that his undoubted talent continues to be unfortunately blended with choleric behaviour and bizarre misjudgement, before, during and after his matches.
One wonders what Rod Laver, who was at Wimbledon to be feted on the 50th anniversary of his Grand Slam triumph in 1969, must make of the combined ‘efforts’ of Tomic and Kyrgios?
However, many things do change. During the first week of Wimbledon I was fortunate to visit Singapore for the first time in twenty years. This remarkable city/nation State continues to evolve. Since my last visit the most striking addition to the city has been the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Three giant, shimmering glass and stainless steel towers are united at their summit by an elongated structure that resembles, depending on one’s angle of sight, either a surfboard or a landing craft. Designed with a James Bond movie in mind the top structure allows guests to swim in an infinity pool and view Singapore from above 60 storeys. Diners can sit nearby at rooftop restaurants and survey Singapore’s skyline and its perennially busy harbour.
Looking over Singapore, it is hard to imagine that a mere seventy four years ago the city was essentially a wasteland at war’s end. Maybe that forgetfulness is why the AFL thought it was appropriate to have a band with the name Birds of Tokyo perform at this year’s ANZAC Day march, notwithstanding the cruelty that the Japanese inflicted on many Australians during the fall of Singapore in February 1942 and afterwards in their infamous prisons and on the Thai-Burma railway.
Singapore’s post-war prosperity is another reminder of the transformation that capital and industrialisation has brought to the world in the last 250 years. As Harvard historian ,David Landes famously observed the Industrial Revolution “unbound the Prometheus” and changed our lives for ever.
What is often forgotten is that the Industrial Revolution was preceded by an agricultural revolution in England that enabled greater food production to be achieved by fewer people, giving rise to the ability of industrialised nations to feed their increasingly urbanised populations. At the heart of this agricultural revolution were the simplest of things. Jethro Tull’s seed drill allowed for more systematic and productive farming as did the introduction of ‘four-field’ rotation of crops. It involved the planting of different seeds on the same land in different years or seasons, using a set pattern, thus helping nutrients to be replaced in the soil for different plants. Often farmers would leave part of their fields fallow, in order that it would be more fertile the following year.
On the green courts of Wimbledon, it seems that everything has still to do with seeds and their rotation.
In the Gentlemen’s draw no matter how the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet club rotate them, the top three seeds of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer continue to produce yields that are unlike anything known before. The retirement of Andy Murray left one of their four fields fallow; however, the long fabled ‘Next Generation’ of players refuse to germinate. Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem fresh from being runner up at Roland Garros and Stefanos Tsitsipas all lost in the first round, Australia’s Alex De Minaur in the second.
And there are some seeds, present and former whose yield appears to have ended. David Ferrer announced his retirement in Paris, but it is high time some other journeymen considered formal retirement. Good money can still be earned through defeats in the early rounds of Grand Slams, but it is sad to see former ‘top tenners’ a shadow of their former selves: Tomas Berdych, Stan Wawrinka, Marcos Baghdatis, Grigor Dimitrov and the French trinity of Jo Wilfred-Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gail Monfils are all beyond the point of late flourishing. Even the successful perennials starting to fade with the Bob and Mike Bryan, playing together in their 21st and 22nd Wimbledon after injury separated them last year, lost in the third round and it seems unlikely they can add to the three titles they won as a team and Mike’s fourth crown that he won last year at the spritely age of forty.
Similarly, there are several female players who seem to have lost their ability to bloom. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Samantha Stosur and Maria Sharapova are Grand Slam champions of over a decade ago. Recent champions including Jelena Ostapenko and Angelique Kerber also seem to have lost their way. Five time Wimbledon champion, Venus Williams, collided with the inevitable destiny of ageing when she lost her first round match to 15 year old American Coco Gauff, who reminds me of Venus when she was that age. Gauff was born in 2004, when Venus had already won two of her five Wimbledon titles. Osaka proved her early Eastbourne loss was no fluke with a first round exit. With Caroline Wozniacki losing in the second round along with Kerber, three of the last four Australian Open Women’s Champions failed to reach the third round.
Wednesday- 10th July
Well, the hopes of our top-seeded Barty have been dashed. Having had three facile victories, with only one of them taking place on Centre Court, Barty faced American Alison Riske in the fourth round on Court 2. Barty’s lack of a serious challenge in the first week may well have contributed to her defeat. Riske, dare I say it, took risks and displaying her crafty grass court skills pressured Barty from all positions on the court. The power and accuracy of Barty’s serve deserted her mid-way through the second set and Risk, playing with fearlessness of the person not expected to win, prevailed.
Barty was not the only seed to be thrown to the wind in the Ladies’ draw. Come the quarter-finals, the only four seeds remaining were 7- Halep, 8- Svitolina, 11- Williams and 19-Konta. Svitolina’s opponent was 68th ranked Karolina Muchova who beat third-seeded compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round with her winning point being a dead net-cord to give her the final set 13-11. Pliskova appears destined to join the ranks of players who have been ranked no.1 who have failed to win a Grand Slam tournament- think Dinara Safina, Jelena Jankovic and Marcelo Rios.
Svitolina won through to her first Grand Slam semi-final and became the first Ukrainian to achieve this milestone. Her opponent was to be Simona Halep who reached her first Wimbledon semi-final since 2014. Alison Riske was denied another upset victory by Serena Williams, who, unlike Barty, was able to rely on her powerful serve when needed to achieve a three set victory. Serena’s semi-final opponent was Barbora Strycova, who was runner-up to Ashleigh Barty at Birmingham. The semi-final was to be Serena’s tenth at Wimbledon and Strycova’s first.
In the Gentlemen’s Quarter-Finals the seeds stood firm as the ‘great three’ created more records. Federer won his 100th match at Wimbledon to enter his thirteenth semi-final, becoming the first male player to win 100 matches at a single Grand Slam tournament. For the record, Navratilova is the eminent female player having won 120 matches at Wimbledon and only losing 14. Nadal, who has won 93 matches at Roland Garros, won through to his seventh Wimbledon semi-final to set up his first match against Federer since their unforgettable final of 2008 and Djokovic won through to his eighth semi-final.
Against these almost overwhelming achievements, Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut won through to his first ever Grand Slam semi-final, continuing his best year on the circuit which started with a quarter-final appearance in the Australian Open where he defeated Andy Murray in the first round.
The Ladies’ semi-finals were as uncompetitive as the Gentlemen’s Singles Quarter-Finals. Strycova was slightly injured and Serena swept into her 11th Wimbledon final in just under an hour, becoming the oldest woman to reach a Grand Slam final at 37 years. Svitolina began feistily, but this only promoted an equal response from Halep who authoritatively won her way into her first Wimbledon final at the age of 27.
Further north in Birmingham, Australia’s cricket team suffered an equally comprehensive defeat in the semi-final of Cricket’s World Cup at the hand of the traditional enemy, England. England won the right to play to win the World Cup for the first time it lost the final to Pakistan in Melbourne in 1992., which was the year that Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf were the singles’ champions at Wimbledon. England’s opponent was to be New Zealand who were upset victors over India in their semi-final.
The Gentlemen’s semi-finals went to script and confirmed the wisdom of the AELTC’s decision to rank Federer as the second seed. The greatest grass court player of all time shaded the greatest clay court player of all time in a memorable, almost romantic match. Federer’s four-set victory atoned for his straight sets semi-final loss at Roland Garros weeks earlier. As the players departed the Centre Court to rapturous applause at the end of their 40th match (Nadal leads 24-16), spectators on and off the court wondered if this would be the final occasion that we would see these legends share their collective skills with the world at Wimbledon. Federer won through to his twelfth final, to seek his ninth title. Djokovic also dropped a set to Bautista Agut, but in a far less gruelling match won through to his sixth final, seeking a fifth crown.
If I wrote that the Ladies’ Final saw a 27 year old, consistently rated as one of the best recent talents in the game and last year’s French Open champion comprehensively beat a 37 year old former Wimbledon champion whose preparation for the tournament was interrupted and who was without a tournament victory since the Australian Open of 2017, one would not be startled.
However, Simona Halep’s maiden Wimbledon title achieved by beating Serena Williams was not expected by most. Before the final Halep had only won one of her ten matches against Williams. Serena had beaten her as recently as the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open. Grass is not considered Halep’s favourite playing surface and she had been beaten by Kerber in the quarter-finals at Eastbourne. Sentimentally, many thought that after Grand Slam final defeats by Kerber and Osaka at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Serena would prevail to claim her 24th Grand Slam title to equal Margaret Court’s record, the value of which had been shamefully and spitefully questioned by Billie-Jean King during the tournament. To see the pioneer of the modern equality of the women’s game spitefully and shamefully deride one of its greatest ever champions because of her personal disagreement with Court over the issue of gay marriage is as unedifying as it is, ultimately, pointless. One wonders whether King will have the decency to attend Wimbledon next year when Court will be honoured on the 50th anniversary of her famous 14-12, 11-9 victory over King, without which she could not have continued to complete her Grand Slam at the US Open with a victory against King’s long-term doubles partner, Rosie Casals.
Some commentators wondered whether the ‘weight of creating history’ may prove to be Serena’s nemesis. However, one Australian journalist took a different perspective on the question of weight. Comparing the height and weight statistics of the two finalists- Halep- 168 cms, 60 kgs vs. Williams 175 centimetres-84 kgs.
Will Swanton, writing in The Australian, argued that the physics of such a discrepancy would almost guarantee a Williams’ victory. He stated that in the world of athletics Serena’s physiological advantages would be considered so great that she would not be allowed to compete against Halep ‘a la Caster Semenya.’
However, Halep proved that weight and power does not guarantee quick footwork, variety of shot making, consistency and tenacity. As Serena shook hands with Simona at the net she said, “you played unbelievable”. No-one could disagree. In the presence of two Duchesses, Simona played a regal, almost flawless game. The match lasted 55 minutes. Halep made only three unforced errors in the match compared to Serena’s twenty five.
No one thought after Serena’s 3-6, 3-6 loss last year to Kerber that another drubbing for Williams was possible. Sadly, for Serena, Halep chose the final to produce the quality of tennis that she has promised for much of her career, only to have a lack of self-confidence betray her. Against Serena, she promised to be “chilled” and, as promised, was never perturbed. Although Australia’s Ashleigh Barty was not the champion, there was vicarious success for Australia as Darren Cahill has been instrumental in the coaching and mentoring of Halep and was at Centre Court to witness her victory.
Sometimes, there is nothing you can do when a player produces such sustained quality. In the 1984 Gentlemen’s final, John McEnroe remarkably conceded only four games in his straight-sets win over Jimmy Connors. On that day, McEnroe would have beaten anyone in the game’s history at the height of their powers. Similarly, I am not sure anyone could have matched Halep on the second Saturday of this year’s tournament.
Simona conceded the fewest number of games in a Ladies’ Final since Steffi Graf beat Monica Seles 6-2 6-1 in 1992. Chris Evert beat Hana Mandlikova by the Halep/Williams score of 6-2 6-2 in 1981.The most one-sided final in the Open Era, was King’s 6-0 6-1 victory over Evonne Cawley in 1975.
In the amateur era the most one sided final was when Dorothea Lambert Chambers won one of her seven titles in 1911 with a 6-0 6-0 win against the 1909 champion, another English player, Dora Boothby.
1921 was the last year the Challenge Round system was used at Wimbledon, which saw the defending singles’ champions not having to play a match until the final. In that year the imperious Suzanne Lenglen defeated America’s Elizabeth Ryan 6-2 6-0 . Lenglen also won her 1922 and 1925 titles- 3 of her 6- by the same score.
Elizabeth Ryan is worth mentioning, because she amassed 19 Wimbledon titles- 12 Doubles and 7 mixed- without ever winning a singles title. Poetically, Ryan collapsed and died at Wimbledon in 1979 the day before Billie Jean King equalled her record of 19 Wimbledon titles with a victory in the Women’s Doubles with Martina Navratilova, who by her retirement had also amassed 20 Wimbledon titles, winning her last in 2003 with victory in the Mixed Doubles at the age of 46, making her Wimbledon’s oldest champion. Ryan played in only two singles finals losing the second in 1930 to Helen Wills Moody, whose record haul of eight Wimbledon titles was eclipsed by Martina in 1990. Do I have to tell you that the score in the 1930 final was the score du jour of 6-2 6-2? Moody, unlike Ryan, lived to see her singles’ record broken, dying in 1998 at the age of 92.
Halep became Romania’s first Wimbledon singles’ champion, atoning for Ilie ‘Nasty’ Nastase’s loss to Stan Smith in the 1972 final. Nastase had Grand Slam success in New York in 1972 and in Paris in 1973. Simona acknowledged the presence of Ion Tiriac, another influential Romanian tennis player, in her acceptance speech.
Tiriac, a post-Cold War billionaire, was nicknamed Dracula, because he was born in Transylvania, and is still President of the Romanian Tennis Federation at the age of eighty. He partnered Nastase to win the French Doubles title in 1970 and ,with Nastase, took Romania to three Davis Cup finals during the Cold War in 1969, 1971 and 1972, losing on each occasion losing to arch-enemy the United States. Virginia Ruzici, Romania’s only previous female Grand Slam singles champion, having won the French Open in 1978, was in Simona’s coterie of courtside supporters, who collectively leapt to their feet after every point that Halep won.
Halep’s victory meant that since the start of the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic and Murray domination of Wimbledon in 2003, there have been nine Ladies’ champions, with six of these winning in the last seven years.
There was also some Australian influence in the Women’s Doubles when Taiwanese player Su-Wei Hsieh won her second Wimbledon Doubles crown partnering singles’ semi-finalist, Barbora Strycova, who won her first. Hsieh, who is a crafty player- she took a set from Pliskova in the third round and narrowly lost a three-set match to Osaka at the Australian Open- is coached by Australia’s Paul McNamee, who won two Wimbledon Doubles titles with Peter McNamara in 1980 and 1982.
The one Australian who truly shone on the court was Dylan Alcott who won the inaugural Wimbledon Wheelchair Singles’ and Doubles’ titles . He now holds all Wheelchair Grand Slam singles titles and has won nine in total. Victory in New York would see him obtain his dream of a Grand Slam to emulate Rod Laver.
The Gentlemen’s Doubles was won by the Colombian pairing of Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal who claimed their first Grand Slam title. The No.2 seeds defeated the French No. 11 seeds (No. 11 was also an unlucky seeding for Serena) Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin who, on the eve of Bastille Day, fought hard but lost in a five set match, the first four sets of which went to tiebreaks. The match lasted four hours and fifty seven minutes, forcing the Ladies’ Doubles final to be played on the final day. Who was to know that the Gentlemen’s final would be exactly as long?
Taiwan, for the first time in its history, had two champions at Wimbledon when Latisha Chan teamed with Ivan Dodig from Croatia to win their first Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title. This was their third Grand Slam triumph following their wins in the same event in Paris in the last two years. Dodig and Chan were also Grand Slam winners in the Men’s and Women’s Doubles events at the 2017 and 2015 US Opens.
In 1945 scientists developed technology that enabled atomic particles, unable to be sighted by the human eye to be split to create technologies and weaponry that changed the world.
In 1948 a photo-finish camera was used for the first time to decide the winner of the Melbourne Cup. It was technology that was used to determine the result of a horse race when it could not be judged accurately by the human eye. From its early days photo-finish technology has advanced to an almost ridiculous degree. By 2012 Dunaden could be declared the winner of the Melbourne Cup over the ill-fated Red Cadeaux by no more than a pixel.
Since 1948 stopwatches, formerly used at swimming pools and athletics tracks, have given way to electronic timing, so that runners and swimmers can now be separated by margins of hundredths and thousandths of seconds that seem unjustly miniscule.
Remarkably, the last day of Wimbledon saw the Gentlemen’s Final and the World Cup Cricket final at Lord’s produce contests that were determined by microscopic outcomes after extraordinary contests.
At Lord’s over eight hours of cricket between England and New Zealand saw scores tied after 50 overs and tied again after a ‘super over’. England was declared the winner on the basis that they had scored a greater number of boundaries during the match.
At Wimbledon at the same time Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic could only be separated at the end of nearly five hours of tennis during which they each covered over 5,600 metres, by a tiebreaker that was played at 12-12 in the fifth set. It was the first time that a fifth set tiebreaker had decided the Wimbledon’s Gentlemen’s Singles title. Djokovic prevailed to claim his fifth Wimbledon title from six finals. He is now one of four players who have won five or more Wimbledon titles in the Open Era- Borg (5), Sampras (7), Federer (8) and Djokovic (5). These four players have won 50% of the titles played for in the last 50 years.
In 1991 Stefan Edberg, the defending Wimbledon champion, lost his semi-final to Michael Stich by the score of 6-4, 6-7,6-7,6-7. After the match Edberg quipped that it “felt strange to lose a match when he never lost his serve.” Federer must be similarly rueful. He won more points in the final: 218-204; he served more aces:25-10; he broke Djokovic’s serve seven times; Federer’s serve was only broken three times; he won a greater percentage of points on his first and second service and hit 94 winners compared to Djokovic’s 54. The only key statistic where Djokovic was ahead was his fewer number of unforced errors- Djokovic’s had 52 compared to Federer’s 62.
Like Edberg in 1991, Federer won six games in every set, but lost the match. However, he failed, also like Edberg, to win any of the three tie-breakers that decided the match. Tie-breaks are to tennis what the photo-finish is to the racetrack, swimming pool and/or athletics tracks. Federer has learnt. as the preferential voting system in Australia and the Electoral College system of America has taught us, that it is not the total number of points or percentage of vote won that decides the game, but rather where and when you obtain the votes and points!
Djokovic still deserves extraordinary credit for his victory. He beat Federer and the crowd’s antipathy towards him that, at times, bordered on the ungracious. Djokovic saved two match points when Federer served for the match at 8-7 in the fifth set. His escape from this perilous situation mirrored his win against Federer in an epic semi-final in the 2011 US Open and saw him become the first player since Robert Falkenburg in 1948 to save match points and win the Wimbledon title. In the 22nd game of the fifth set-the Women’s Final had a total of 16- Djokovic led 40-0 and was booed by the crowd for querying a line call as Federer fought back to deuce and then had two break points before Djokovic held serve. The Serbian is made of stern stuff.
Federer has lost 4 of the 12 Wimbledon finals he has played. Djokovic has beaten him in three of them adding this year’s victory to those in 2014 and 2015. Federer and Djokovic have played in five Grand Slam finals- 2 US and 3 Wimbledon- and Djokovic has won four of them. Federer has not beaten Djokovic in a Grand Slam final since the first one they played at the 2007 US Open.
If not for his loss to Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, Djokovic may well be heading to New York shooting for a calendar year Grand Slam. He has won four of the last five Grand Slam titles.
As Jethro Tull discovered how seeds flourish depends on how and when they are planted. Djokovic’s purple run of form may have much to do with the advantage of being the current No.1 seed. His relative luxury is that he only must play one of the legendary brethren of tennis to win a title. Whilst they are No.2 and No.3 seeds, either Federer or Nadal must defeat two of the three greatest players of all time to win a title.
Could Djokovic have beaten both Nadal and Federer? If Federer had prevailed, it would have been the first time he had beaten both Nadal and Djokovic at the same Grand Slam tournament. At the risk of employing confusing dimensional imagery , it is clear that even at their stratospheric level, the differences between the great three are microscopic.
And so, we await New York.
What will happen in the meantime?
Will the Morrison government’s tax cuts and lowered interest rates stimulate economic growth?
Will there be genuine progress towards an accepted set of words for a referendum to acknowledge indigenous Australians in our Constitution?
Which of the Melbourne Cup field of 24 Democratic Party candidates for their party’s Presidential nomination will emerge as the frontrunner?
What approach to will our new and 27th Governor-General, David Hurley, take to the office?
Will other States follow Victoria’s lead and ban student use of mobile phones at public schools from 1st January, 2020?
Will organisers of sporting events follow Wimbledon’s lead and not play loud and discordant music between every interlude in a contest?
Will the conspiracy theorists resist mocking and denigrating the astonishing accomplishment of man’s landing on the moon 50 years ago? Today is 50 years since Apollo 11 took off on its voyage to spellbinding history.
The Chinese, a people full of aphorisms, have observed that “from the smallest acorn grows the mightiest oak tree”.
Federer- aged 38 in August- 20 Grand Slam titles; Nadal aged 33-18 Grand Slam titles; and Djokovic aged 32-16 Grand Slam titles are the three mightiest tennis players of all time.
To have had them ‘cross-pollinate’ and play at the same time has been breathtaking. Metaphorically, they are more than giant oaks. They have become Himalayan peaks: ageless and indestructible with an imperious ability to defy the attempts of all others to scale them. To have seen them carve out their indestructible legacies is a blessing beyond measure. If tennis had a Mt.Rushmore they would be its visages.
16th July 2019
This article is dedicated to Mr. Mark Williams OAM, a former colleague and great friend who passed away last week. Mark was one of the world’s gentlemen. He was man of great faith, a devoted husband and father and a selfless and generous teacher. Mark displayed a contentment and modesty that befitted a man who was unaffected by vanity and ambition. Mark was a regular reader of my thoughts and one of the first to offer his comments. I shall miss him greatly. It was my privilege to have known him. May he rest in peace and light eternal shine upon him.