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

Share
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

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test