For those concerned about the health of Australian tennis, the extraordinary brilliance on display in the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday night only served to highlight the paucity of the current Antipodean offering.

While Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were trading winners in their five-set, centre-court epic, a match already being talked about as the greatest grand slam final ever, what we in Australia had to content ourselves with was the Channel Nine commentary team repeatedly updating the scores of the boys and girls doubles finals, because they happened to feature Australians.

During breaks in play between Nadal and Federer, the ever-patriotic Nine team of Fred Stolle and John Newcombe, ably assisted by Mark Woodforde, cut to the real action on the outside courts. There, the Taipei pair of Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Tsung-Hua Yang ended up edging past the Australian third-seeded team of Matt Reid and Bernard Tomic, the Aussies going down 12-10 in an agonising final set.

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Over on the girls’ court, Slovenia’s Polona Hercog partnered our very own Jessica Moore to a three-set victory over the all-Australian pair of Isabella Holland and Sally Peers.

At last, we had produced a winner — one half of the girls’ doubles team. Combined with Sam Stosur’s mixed doubles triumph, that was as close as Australia got to glory on final day at the All England Club, a place where glory could once almost be guaranteed for players with AUS behind their name.

In fact, we were reminded of one of our most recent successes at Wimbledon — Pat Cash’s triumph in 1987 — when Nadal began clambering over the English fans on the way up to embrace his family and then strode across the parapets to greet Crown Prince Felipe of Spain. For it was our Pat who patented that move 21 years ago, doing his Spiderman impersonation to hug his coach and girlfriend up in the players’ box after defeating Ivan Lendl.

Our best player at the moment, Lleyton Hewitt, battling a hip injury and failing form, was knocked out in straight sets by Federer in the fourth round. Chris Guccione, ranked 92 and our only other male player in the top 100, was despatched in the first round. On the women’s side, the plucky Perth lefty Casey Dellacqua lasted until the third round.

Still, all might not be lost. In Bernard Tomic, the top seed in the boys’ draw who was beaten in a semi-final, Australia clearly has cause for excitement. Here is a player earmarked for great things.

But we wonder whether the British — whose last singles player to win a Wimbledon title was Virginia Wade in 1977 — might yet beat us to the punch in resurrecting their tennis scene.

For the girls champion at the All England Club this year was 14-year-old Briton Laura Robson, who spent the first six years of her life in Australia before moving to England.

When an Australian reporter asked Robson at her post-match news conference whether she felt any affinity for her birthplace, the question was greeted by British reporters with shouts of: “Go away, she’s ours.”

Robson then replied unequivocally: “None.”

So that’s how bad things have got: not even the Brits want anything to do with us any more.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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