The Aussie Open men's final between Serbian Novak Djokovic and Frenchman Jo-Wilfired Tsonga this weekend was stunning. Even more exciting was that neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal were on court, especially considering they have won the last 11 Grand Slam titles.
It may be the beginning of a new ‘period of change’ in men's tennis, where the Grand Slam finalists are no longer predictable and the top of the ATP rankings is in flux. Following the ‘period of dominance’ of Ivan Lendl and Mats Willander in the 1980's, there was a ‘period of change’ in the early 90's before the Sampras and Agassi era. During this time, the Grand Slams were won by different people each year: Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Michael Stich, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Andres Gomez and Jim Courier all got their hands on the major tournaments in the first three years of the 90's. Similarly, before Federer and Nadal, there was a ‘period of change’ in the naughties with Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter, Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and even a revived Agassi all competing at the top.
The women's game too has had its periods of change, most notably after the retirement of Steffi Graf and following the downfall of the hegemony of the Williams sisters.
These rare periods are extremely exciting, making tennis delightful to follow. Politics too has these periods once in a while. In the last days of the Major government, there was a great ‘period of change’. Conservatives lost their status as the dominant party in British politics and there was great uncertainty surrounding the future political landscape. Politics today is in a ‘period of change’. The contest is wide open. The dominance of New Labour has eroded and the polls drag Cameron's Conservatives from approval ratings of 30% to 45% and back again.
As with tennis, after a ‘period of change’ in politics, a ‘period of dominance’ emerges. But, is this current period just a minor blip, like Sampras losing Wimbledon in 1996? Will Labour re-emerge dominant? Or will Cameron lead a new ‘period of dominance’? And is there a ‘period of change’ across the Atlantic, or will the Bush-Clinton epoch continue?
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