Last night, Novak Djokovic was asked to share what Australian slang he knew. The answer revealed something telling about Australian tennis.
The rolling breakfast news inadvertently illustrated something meaningful this morning. The piece recounted the post-coital throes of a tennis match, with the courtside presenter, a mess of plugged hair and teeth, forcing Novak Djokovic to return the Australian slang he knew. Novak said “fair dinkum”, the presenter chortled, and I approached a conclusion: the tennis is extremely bogan.
Mate. Good on ya. Fair dinkum. 🇦🇺
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 23 January 2019
It may be bogan, but it’s not for your regular, Bathurst going bogan, it caters to the bogan who doesn’t identify as one. The evidence is everywhere, what with our flag polling Prime Minister cornering Ash Barty with his finest erect thumbs, or the identical media talking heads paid to find different ways to say “how good was that?”
It’s no accident that the elegance of a Federer backhand is described in the same fashion as a well-browned snag.
The key is the illusion of class. We Australians love the illusion of class. It’s why we paint the Spring Carnival with our vomit. It’s why some of us group to watch billion dollar sailing yachts crawl out of the harbour on Boxing Day. It’s why some of us purchase a Lexus badged Toyota. It’s a bit of class, y’know?
It’s an English game, elevated by the French, dominated by the Swiss. It’s cool, because it’s not from here. It’s not Thugby League, it’s the tennis. It’s the same mode of thinking that pushes one to buy a souped-up version of a workman’s ute or hang black and white vistas of Brooklyn in your loungeroom. It’s all a smokescreen. The Australian attempt at Tennis is exclusively bogan. Rod Laver is not a man to herald, but a place to daytime drink at. Our most memorable proponent of the sport was a man from Adelaide who wore a baseball cap backwards long into adulthood and married a soap star at the Opera House. A true battler. We have exclusive scorn for Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, applying the pejorative labels to criticise them, not because they’re ethnic, but because they’re lazy. Recently, they played each other, and we couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss. Which is telling. Whenever two of the greater Australian talents play each other, we stop and watch. Those two? Nah, they’re flogs. It’s not exactly an insult hurled out the window of a speeding Commodore, but it’s not far off.
The British might have the ornate gardens and strawberried cream of Wimbledon, but we have our own traditions. Air conditioning cooling the smorgasbord of top-shelf Australian beers and a pasta salad from Woolworths. It holds the same prestige as ignoring the regular Bunnings and going to the Bunnings a suburb over, you know, for a treat. The schwack of a tennis ball is as part of the soundtrack of a brand-new uniform suburb as is the mower that starts on the first time, every time.
The problem I have, is the needless toffery that accompanies it. Whether the fare is macarons or party pies, Crown Lager or green grenade throwies, and the discussion swirls around your eldest darling’s jaunt at university, or of old mate fucken parking in yer fucken spot, the difference is negligible. The numbers of horses or reptiles on the breast of your polo amounts to nothing. As Kirsten Dunst once opined, love means nothing in Tennis. Thusly, I have none for those who use it as a means of pomp and difference.
If you like the tennis, you’re a bogan. Admit it, or I’ll knock you.