THE Australian Open tennis tournament, the first of the four grand slams, is slowly coming to an end. The women’s finalists have been decided – Li Na of China will face Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia for the title.
Li went through with a victory over Canadian Eugenie Bouchard; Cibulkova thrashed Agnieska Radwanksa of Poland.
And on the men’s side, it will be Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) or Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) against Roger Federer (Switzerland) or Rafael Nadal (Spain).
So what’s happened to the Americans? The great women’s hope, Serena Williams, the one who never loses a game because her opponent plays better but only because she (Serena) doesn’t play well, fell in the fourth round; her sister, Venus, went out in the first.
And the other “sister”, Sloane Stephens, crashed in round four as well.
American tennis’ great hope for a while was Andy Roddick. They called him A-Rod. But he never won anything of substance.
Over the last 10 years, it has been Federer or Nadal or Djokovic winning the men’s titles. More recently, Andy Murray of Scotland – the Brits claim him as one of theirs when he wins – has got a peep in.
But the Americans, the country that gave us the exciting John McEnroe and Andre Agassi and the steady Jimmy Connors — and the boring Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, the two who drove many viewers away from the game — have nothing to show.
There’s a good reason for this. Over the years, Americans have dominated various sports by unfair means. The American cyclist Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005 — all under the influence of drugs. Carl Lewis won four golds in the 1984 Games — and was later found to be a drugs cheat. Not on the record, but it is common knowledge that he cheated.
In 1984, when the Olympics was held in Los Angeles, US athletes were told to win by any means – but not to get caught. Poor Ben Johnson of Canada got caught in 1988 – when all the others who placed in the 100 metres were doping as well. He had no smart scientists on his side, this poor boy from Jamaica.
The American dictum is cheat, but don’t get caught. Marion Jones won the sprint golds in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – and several years later confessed to using drugs to do so.
It goes on and on – if American athletes haven’t been caught, it is because the testing isn’t stringent enough.
But in tennis, the rules are very strict. There is still some of the old British sense of fair play about the sport, perhaps the only sporting pursuit in which it exists.