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Wimbledon is on my mind

Does anyone go to work on a Friday anymore? In this post-Covid world the relative absence of foot and car traffic at the end of a traditional working week in a city the size of Melbourne is abundantly clear. In the ‘land of the long weekend’, the last day of the working week is the one most sacrificed on the modern altar of achieving a post-pandemic ‘work/life’ balance.

Unlike the ‘easybeat’ 1960s, when “Friday was on my mind” for most people, it is now an optional extra in the working week.

Last Friday morning there were fewer people about than normal. Was it the cold southern hemisphere weather or were many bunkering down to watch the first of the Presidential debates for 2024?

Let’s deal with the least bizarre aspects of the debate first. It was the first Presidential debate between two Presidents. It was the first conducted before either major party had formally nominated their candidates.

After the racket and rancour of the 2020 Presidential debates, the rules of combat were changed. No audience and microphones switched off after responses to prevent runaway interjections.

Reflecting on the debate one is drawn to Karl Marx’s observation that history “first repeats itself as tragedy then as farce.”

Tragically and farcically only ninety minutes of viewing was needed to confirm Karl’s insight.

The tragedy for American democracy is that most of its voters do not want this contest to occur. Well, it will and if you think the debate plumbed new depths of simplistic and personal attacks, do remember it is only July. Four months to go from this Friday.

Equally tragic is that the debate confirmed the farcical proposition confronting America’s electorate. They must choose- well they do not as the land of the free is a land of voluntary voting-between an incumbent whose ability to demonstrate the necessary mental acuity to be President has expired, and a narcissist whose ability to demonstrate an understanding of democratic principles is non-existent.

Has bathos ever been more worryingly displayed in public? The contenders to lead the world’s most powerful and influential liberal democracy could only comment on their relative golf handicaps to convince people of their fitness for office. Is there an antonym for meritocracy? If there isn’t, one may need to be invented to describe this year’s Presidential campaign. To paraphrase Lincoln, the first debate can be summarised as demonstrating “malice towards all, with encouragement for none.”

Thank goodness there are diversions.

Australia had a noisy moment of political hoopla last week with the return of Julian Assange to its shores. Our own national debate followed. Assange is revered by many as an Olympian fighter for truth and freedom of expression. Some greeting Assange at his return to Canberra’s airport created scenes not seen since the Soviet Union’s forced removal of Mrs. Petrov. Equally, Assange is vilified by some as treasonous, cowardly and manifestly self-serving. After a legal and political dispute lasting over a decade,  the Wikileaks founder became a convicted and freed man all in one day. Like many a polarising figure, Assange’s character and credibility will forever be contested.

The quality of his nation’s government is debated far more constantly than Australia’s Prime Minister would like. A child of the big spending Whitlam government, Mr. Albanese has tragically forgotten that increased public spending combined with supporting generous wage increases only serves to create wage push inflation. Interest rates remain high. Inflation inevitably increases. Albanese’s most farcical achievement is to oversee an energy policy that has seen a nation that is a net exporter of energy resources have domestic shortages of energy that have become increasingly expensive.

An Economics graduate, Mr. Albanese obviously did not attend the lecture of nations being wise to pursue their comparative economic advantage. For missing the advice of Adam Smith, Albanese is reducing “the wealth of our nation.” Australia ends the financial year without either enough finances or effective financial management.

There is little chance of such negative commentary about the acting career of Donald Sutherland, who recently passed away aged 88. As Canadians celebrate their national day on 1st July, they would do well to pay homage to the boy from the Maritimes whose acting talent was displayed supremely for decades.  Sutherland’s performance as an anguished father in Ordinary  People (1980) is one of the truly extraordinary acting performances of our times.

As Assange rests and enjoys his freedom, Wimbledon is upon us! During its two weeks, Wimbledon is constantly busy. Since 2022 even the traditional rest day of the first Sunday of the tournament has been abandoned to ensure the smooth progress of the tournament.  By the Friday of its first week, one can sense the inevitable drama and tension of the second week.

Everyone has been busy wondering whether Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be able to take their place in the tournament. As of today, it appears that, against all odds, they will both be there. Murray knows his chances are forlorn. Djokovic has stated that he would only play if he had a chance of winning. His search for a 25th Grand Slam title to place him sui generis in the game’s pantheon is inexorable. If Djokovic fails to triumph, the tennis world will head to America for the US Open with the possibility of a Grand Slam year ending without either Djokovic, Murray, Nadal or Federer winning a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002!

Can Iga Swiatek win her first Wimbledon? The form she displayed in Paris suggests she should, but her avoidance of the circuit of Wimbledon’s lead-up tournaments does not generate much assurance about her confidence to conquer all on the grass surface.

All the major contenders for the Women’s title have frailties: Swiatek- the grass; Gauff- her serve under pressure; Sabalenka- life itself; Rybakina- stamina; Pegula- a horrendous record at Grand Slam tournaments and Ons Jabeur who often displays a chronic lack of self-belief in significant matches. England will be hoping that Katie Boulter will show the spirit of Princess Kate at the Trooping of the Colour and carry the form that saw her win the Nottingham title to SW19.

The Men’s draw is more predictable, but arguably not. After his triumph in Paris, Alcaraz, Wimbledon's defending Men's champion, lost in the first round of Queen’s. Alex de Minaur, Australia’s great hope won the grass court tournament in Rosmalen, but then also lost at Queen’s in the first round.  Djokovic has appeared in eight of the last ten Wimbledon finals. His opponents would be foolish to consider his era to be over even as he recovers from a serious knee injury. Australia will be hoping that De Minaur, Boulter’s beau, can regroup to give himself a chance of being Australia’s first Men’s champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2022.

Glorious uncertainty awaits! If one believes opinion polls there are no such doubts about the result of this week’s British general election. The removalists can be ordered to take the Starmer family to 10 Downing Street as of Thursday. The political certitudes have condemned the Sunak government to defeat: longevity- 14 years in office wears anyone’s affection down; political disunity that has seen five Prime Ministers come and go; a sluggish economy and a small target Opposition that has simply asked the electorate- like America not compelled to vote- to opt for the magical appeal of “change”. Whether such a change to the stolid left leadership of Keir Starmer, will equal progress for the nation remains to be seen.

The French are also having their say. Voting starts voting tonight in the first round of parliamentary elections to elect the to elect the 577 members of the 17th National Assembly of the Fifth French Republic. Opinion polls suggest that the representation  of right-wing nationalist parties, led by National Rally will swell, diminishing the authority of centrist President Macron, who has called the elections three years before they are due. In calling a snap election, Macron may have broken his own authority.

All major political parties wish to win every election! Wimbledon, of course , is the Grand Slam tournament that every player wants to win above all others.

Rosewall, Lendl, Roche, Rafter, Roddick, Courier, Wilander and Stolle are male players whose place in tennis history would be considerably different if they had claimed an All-England singles title. Ditto for Sukova- mother and daughter, Mandlikova, Barker, Jaeger, Sabatini and Henin-Hardenne in the annals of Women’s tennis.

That’s the beauty of tennis and other sports. It is, ultimately, the talents and skills of individuals that produce its champions. For politicians, their place in history is more often a product of time, place and often unpredicted events. No matter how hard they strive, many political leaders cannot conquer the circumstances that define them.

Wimbledon provides the delight of witnessing individuals defining themselves and the sport.

Triumph and ecstasy await!

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1 Kommentar

15. Juli

Dear J-Dog,

What a wonderfully elightening article! I always do enjoy the coverage of the debates in the United States of America, and the insightful inclusion of the quote from your political paragon 'Karl Marx' is always good to see.

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