Friday, February 4, 2011

Thinking global, connecting through tennis

Tennis / Thinking global beyond borders.

It's been a long week with so much riveting news being made throughout the world, especially in Egypt.  Fortunately, it's rewarding to know that in these challenging times of unrest, a spirit of peace, sportsmanship and multiculturalism can exist and thrive through world sport.

Last weekend, the Australian Open crowned its 2011 champions in men's and women's singles.  The Americans didn't fare very well, while Serbia and Belgium did just the opposite.  And, when the new world rankings were announced on Monday, for the first time since the rankings began in 1975, the women's Top 10 players were from 10 different countries.  It's just another example of the global nature of tennis ~ and sport beyond borders ~ in an era when the United States is no longer a dominant force from the baseline or at the net.

Down under in Melbourne, basking in a glow of sunshine in the middle of summer, "The Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific" provided a couple of nice endings that got the 2011 tennis season off to a very promising start.  First, Kim Clijsters of Belgium proved that she is the best women's player in the world ~ bar none ~ as she defeated Li Na of China in three very competitive sets. It was the fourth career Grand Slam singles title for Clijsters, who improved her world ranking afterwards to No. 2.  Now, it's just a matter of time before she's No. 1 and, someday soon, Li will prove a worthy Grand Slam champion, too.

The following evening at Rod Laver Arena, Novak Djokovic of Serbia won his second Australian Open crown in straight sets over his boyhood friend, Great Britain's Andy Murray. Throughout the fortnight, the acrobatic Djokovic showed his shot-mastery and fortitude, dropping only one set in seven matches and dispatching defending champion Roger Federer in the semifinals.

In accepting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, awarded to the men's champion, Djokovic paused for reflection, choosing his words carefully, and thoughtfully projected a mature side of himself not always displayed on the court.  "There's been a tough period for our people in Serbia, but we are trying every single to day to present our country in the best possible way. So, this is for my country, Serbia," Djokovic said, clutching the trophy.

Both matches brought out a lot of great qualities in each of the finalists, and above all, there was a tremendous display of sportsmanship shown by Clijsters, Li, Djokovic and Murray. The multicultural crowds for both finals, many waving flags and holding up tasteful banners of support, applauded politely and respectfully.  After all, this was the Happy Slam.  Added up, it gives us hope for the future of the sport, even if there isn't always an American ~ or Roger Federer ~ playing on the final day of a Grand Slam.

As noted earlier in this post, the new WTA (Women's Tennis Association) rankings released this week show the Top 10 players hail from 10 different countries.  It's like a United Nations of tennis with Denmark, Belarus and Australia all having representation on the court.

"Having 10 different players represent the top 10 rankings shows how truly global tennis has become," WTA Chair and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement after the release of the latest rankings.

The women's Top 10:  1. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark; 2. Kim Clijsters, Belgium; 3. Vera Zvonareva, Russia; 4. Francesca Schiavone, Italy; 5. Sam Stosur, Australia; 6. Venus Williams, U.S.; 7. Li Na, China; 8. Jelena Jankovic, Serbia; 9. Victoria Azarenka, Belarus; 10. Agnieska Radwanska, Poland.

And, the 11th ranked player, Shahar Peer, is from Israel. Thirty of the top 60 are from different nations.  Plus, Schiavone is the first Italian to break into the top five, and Li is the first Chinese player to reach No. 7.

Thinking global, connecting the world peacefully with tennis racquets instead of igniting chaos with stones.

Photograph by Michael Dickens (2004) from the Museum of the French Federation of Tennis, Stade Roland Garros, Paris.

No comments:

Post a Comment