As cliche as it clearly sounds, a breath of fresh air blew with mounting strength across the Australian Open Tennis stadium in Melbourne over the past week or so……
Australians of all ages (particularly mums and dads) who love clean, respectful, unspoiled sport of all kinds began to feel something that has eluded them for too long. Pride.
Pride in the knowledge that Australia really is a country of good sports breeding good sports.
The conceited, loud mouthed tennis disrespecters such as Tomic and Kyrgios have been sent packing.
They have been replaced by a fresh new batch of pushing stars who are true ambassadors of their sport and their country reminiscent of Lew Hoad Rod Laver, Margaret Court and their like in years gone by.
Instead of Tomic and Kyrgios, who repeatedly let us down with their language and pitiful actions on and off the court, are consigned to the dustbin. And it is their own fault.
They may win a few more important games in the future, but who cares.
We now have a new group of young, dedicated, clear minded players with uncensorable vocabularies that can uplift instead dashing down, leading to TVs across the country being switched off to protect young (and old) ears and eyes.
Thank you Ashleigh Barty.
Your demolition of former champion Maria Sharapova, who was banned in 2016 for drug use, was as sweet as it was power laden.
Not just because you won but how you have carried yourself for years now as you climbed to this position on the courts of the world.
Australian knew you were good. We also knew you were a clean fighter and if you lost to Sharapova you would have had only good words for her, even though she tried to put you off your game by taking far too long to go to the loo mid game.
The crowd didn’t hold back, though. As you waited patiently and bounced on your toes in a “let me at you” statement, Sharapova was booed. Rightly so. Just a few minutes more and the grunter of all grunters was out.
As equally uplifting as Barty is 19-year old Alex De Minaur from Sydney (with slabs of time spent in Spain, thanks to his Dad’s heritage).
De Minaur, known by crowds as “Dee-mon”, is blessed with unending energy and speed and although he did not reach the quarters like Barty, he endeared himself to tennis lovers across Australia and the world for his never-say-die play and his calm, enthusiastic, respectful demenour (that sounds familiar) when he comes into your homes with his clean cut hair and clean cut mouth.
It’s sad we feel we must make this statement but thanks to Tomic and Kyrgios it just comes naturally. In time, and let’s hope it is soon, we will see Ashleigh and Alex and others as the norm and there will be no need to refer to those “has beens” Tomic and Kyrgios.
Over the last three years De Minaur has risen from a ranking in the 1500s to his current, career-high perch at No. 29. In the run up to the Open he won his first ATP tournament, in Sydney.
Australia’s current No 2 is John MIllman,29. While he is just reaching his peak after years of hard work, he is another player Australia can be truly proud, bursting on the international scene as he did when he beat Roger Federer in the last US Open.
Two other Australians worth mentioning in the same breath as De Minaur, Barty and Millman as part of the new breed of Australians are Alex Bolt, 26, and Alexei Popyrin another 19-year-old. Both entered the Australian Open unknown to most Australians.
Both have used their time on and off the court to prove to the public that they are bona fide.
Barty is not the only Australian woman player doing us proud and adding to the efforts of US Open winner Sam Stosur who has carried our hopes with dignity for so long.
Twenty six year old Croatian-born Ajla Tomljanović, currently the third ranked Australian, is another good news player who carries herself professionally and plays the game furiously and clean.
There are others, mainly youngsters we will soon hear more of.
Our tennis is at last in good hands.
Note: The feel good atmosphere surrounding Ashleigh Barty and others we have just mentioned can’t go without reflecting on the the two Women’s Big Bash League semi finals at the weekend won by the Sydney Sixers and Brisbane Heat by the slimmest of margins.
The sheer joy on the faces of the winners and the dejection but good sportsmanship of the losers was another reminder that sport here in Australia is something to be cherished and shared whole heartedly and without fear with our kids.