Charlotte O'Sullivan: A tennis Grand Slam used to be so hard, but not in our globalised world

Notebook: It's not the players who have changed; it's the ground beneath their feet

Related Topics

Now it's possible that you are not addicted to watching tennis. Such people, I realise, do exist. My seven-year-old daughter, for example, on seeing me settle down to watch the French Open at the weekend, wailed, "I hate tennis players. Why can't they relax?"

But even refuseniks have a tough time ignoring Wimbledon. One, because it's as much cultural as sporting. Two, because we've grown to know the cast. It seems extremely likely that this year it will be won by either Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer because, well, winning is what they do. The world's top three are breaking records at a rate of knots. They just won't go away. Which has led some pundits to dub this a Golden Age.

To these pundits I say "pish".

Back in the 1980s, it was nigh-on impossible to triumph at all the grand slams, because the terrains were so different. The clay courts at Paris were super slow, the grass courts at Wimbledon super fast, the hard courts at the US and Australian Opens somewhere in the middle. Dominance on one surface guaranteed disaster on another, which led to some wonderful dramas. Remember Sir Gawain, whose impossible strength deserted him when the sun sank? That's exactly who anguished Ivan Lendl resembled as he tried to translate victory at the French and US Opens into Wimbledon success. Year after year, before our very eyes, a god was rendered mortal.

Thanks to various technological "improvements" to rackets, tennis balls and grounds, that doesn't happen anymore. The courts at Paris have got faster and, since 2001, the ones at Wimbledon have slowed right down. This means that if a talented player comes to grips with the hard courts of New York's Flushing Meadows, he has a fair chance of looking super-human across the field.

I was initially tempted to see this trend as part of a cunning US plot. No, seriously – what better way to undermine the idiosyncratic, vive-la-differénce sportsmen of Europe, than to force them to play ball the bland American way? Hegemony rules! However, American tennis has never been in such a bad state (tee hee). Moreover, the top three players in the world are, respectively, a Serb, a Spaniard and a Swiss, which would suggest that the true winners are athletes hailing from a European country beginning with S. And, yes, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are splendid, sublime and effortlessly superior. But, please, some perspective. If this is tennis heaven, it has the most banal of foundations. It's not the players who have changed; it's the ground beneath their feet.


Quick on the draw, but not the uptake

I have always fancied myself as a bit of an artistic genius. Suffice to say, my skills may have rustified. I was recently introduced to the "social drawing game" Draw Something, a mobile app which requires a person to choose a word which they then have to represent in picture form. Their partner has to guess the word. Then they draw a picture. You get the idea.

I settled down to illustrate my word, then pressed "send" with a small but self-satisfied smile. "Rabbits!" said my friend, excitedly. Then, frowning, "Rabbits on a... banana?" It took several minutes before helpful suggestions, ie cheating, put him on the right track. Rabbits on a banana? Vikings on a longboat. It's such a thin line.

Undaunted, I began my next task, drawing a bespectacled man with a beard, plus a patient on a sofa. This time, my friend was rendered speechless. In desperation, I scribbled the words "Vienna" and "cigar". "Hey, this is Draw Something, not Write Something" muttered our host.

What makes a large group of (reasonably) sane individuals engage in such an activity when they could be putting the world to rights and/or probing each others' emotional depths? Draw Something is a childish waste of time, an anti-social drawing game. I'm hooked.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the endless and beginningless election campaign goes up and down

John Rentoul
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor