Ensconced in the window of my preferred cafe, I gaze idly out at the world flowing past, the river we cannot visit twice. According to my opinionated phone, the air out there is 20.4C, and eddying lightly from the north, invariably a portent of heat to come. The Australian summer is uncoiling itself with seamless and practiced grace, and this ideal day is already perfect for tennis. Nevertheless, the rhythms of a lifetime have taught me to associate flawless early summer days with the end of the tennis season, since my hemisphere has little say in the when and where of world sports. Revolutionary urges stir torpidly in my heart. Occupy the northern hemisphere! I order another coffee.
Tennis will be here soon enough. It is a scant three weeks until those ostensibly meaningful exhibition events in Perth and Abu Dhabi commence, and then 2012 is underway, unfurling and snapping tautly in the endless zephyr. Until then there are only meaningless ones, performed by hammy, weary players who short weeks ago bemoaned the godless length of the season, low-brow vaudeville for very good causes.
The rest are retuning their bodies. The miracle of Twitter means we are no longer spared the minutiae of this. Melzer’s body held up well today, apparently. Raonic is in Spain, Fish is in LA, and Dolgopolov is already in Australia, I think. Roger Rasheed is not a player, or even a coach anymore, but he loves to share and his vapid tweets are the stuff of fridge magnets: ‘Don’t play safe in life, that will only blunt your progress, take risks & surprise yourself – everyone can achieve if YOU are truely [sic] willing.’ Luddites are mercifully shielded from this grade of tedium. The truely elite, Rasheed’s willingly self-startled risk-embracers, have retreated to their beaches and pleasure palaces, and parlours, to count up their honey and dine on bread and money. Federer is doubtless in Dubai, Nadal in Mallorca, Djokovic in the Maldives. Murray is now promoting something called ‘road tennis‘ (of course).
There is, in short, nothing happening, so little in fact that the news sites have been reduced to reporting the confirmed entries for mandatory events, or the astounding news that Lleyton Hewitt’s wife is very important to him. The season’s end provides a long perspective, and the dearth of actual news leaves more than adequate space. With space and time in which to operate, the ether is thick with summation. We are invited to contemplate Djokovic’s year, or Nadal’s, or Fognini’s. What did it all mean? Lists of the year’s top matches and finest moments appear daily. Sports Illustrated did so, but forgot to include tennis (earning the eternal ire of Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill). For anyone presuming to write about tennis, the urge to recapitulation is basically irresistible.
I do not presume to be above such urges.