As new TBS writer Pendlebury Wicks explains, Australia losing at tennis is a source of national pride, teetering on grand tradition.
Is there a greater sport in the world than tennis? The answer is yes. There are many. I’ll be honest, there’s a number of Australians who don’t like tennis. But it’s not our fault, we’re a product of our environment.
The premise of most sports is to take a ball and put it in an opposing section of a sports ground to defeat the opposition. Most sports have used this simple equation to create entertainment that teeters the masses upon the edges of seats. Tennis, however, has managed to take this premise and make it as disinteresting as possible.
Even the English language has fallen victim to the old English game, with saucy words that fired loins in Mills & Boon wrung dry of all flavour. Towering words that no longer describe a nautical romance – “love” and “deuce” – are now yelled by an adult dressed like a dweeby kid with uncaring parents. Even the love grunts of exertion that the combatants heap upon each other are a boner-killer. They range anywhere from “awkward parent sex” to “passing emergency vehicle.” For a sport that openly condones balls stuffed in knickers, it remains as attractive as your own reflection in between episodes of a Netflix binge.
Why all this vitriolic criticism? Because we’re shit at it. It makes it harder to like it, and even harder to treasure it. My greatest memory of the sport is when a ballboy copped a ball to the face. (Although I can’t actually remember which event it was at, or if I’m making it up to prove a point.)
Whilst not always, Australians are, at large, rather unfairly seen as the polar opposite of genius. Well, detractors, we’ve proved our intelligence via a vast showing of nationwide nihilism. We have organically concluded the same hypothesis. We’re going to succeed at a game without winning it. We’ll turn up in droves to see us lose.
In your face, Scandinavian egghead theories of Utopia.
Suck it, Kierkegaard!
Picture the hazy scene: an Australian planted squarely in Wimbledonian grass, adorned with laurels of strawberries and cream, presented with a trophy via the hands of a sunburnt commentator. Pfft. As a nation, we seek not these things. We seek entertainment. As long as there’s a decent narrative and a sad ending, we’re apples. We’ve even turned our greatest champion, Rod Laver, into a mausoleum where we amass to celebrate loss.
It’s why we love Lleyton Hewitt. He’s entirely fictional. He was manufactured out of pieces of obsolete Australian psyche, turned loose upon the front yard of our colonial parents’ house to relight the effigy of the Gallipoli spirit: one of a gutsy loss, with a hat worn at an unusual angle.
On to Mark Philippoussis. We focused on naming him after weapons we don’t possess, as we leered at which beau was interested in the one he did possess. Mark represents the confident us. The one who successfully bamboozled those who we fancied, well above our station (or colloquially “punching about your weight”) despite the fact that we may have been unsuitable, as we relied on our one good move to take us into the white sheeted court of doubles tennis.
Which brings me to fair Pat. The man who we used to be, pointing back at faded photos of yesteryear, claiming, “that used to be me! I was a looker, eh!” Which is another great Australian trait: the ambitious delusion.
As was the narrative swirled around the patriarchal shenanigans of Jelena and Damir Dokic that reminded us of the troubled Australian family life we’ve all faced. Intergenerational squabbles in a migrant family is what made us, us.
The new crop of Australian tennis icons, Messrs Tomic and Kyrgios are too victims of our national quirks. They personify two crippling Australian qualities. A) the potential squandering of vast natural talent by B) the fear of the next generation – aka “bloody kids.”
So while we as a nation may be rigidly stuck to the classification of a historical footnote, crushed under the wheels of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, know this: we possess something more meaningful. We have less.
We’ve done well so far in our Home Open, Australia. So let’s band together to ensure the exit of our last racqueteer who wears the flag.