Time may be linear, but history really can play tricks and throw up oddities of connection. Take the tennis.
Just over a century ago – a Sunday, 28 June 1914, a 19-year-old named Gavrilo Princip shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo. Princip, a member of Young Bosnia, was involved with an organisation called the Black Hand, comprising mainly Bosnian Serbs.
The assassination, through a complex web of alliances and networks directly led to the First World War. The assassination became known as the shot that was heard around the world.
And now here we are in Melbourne, it’s a week out from the Australian Open tennis tournament, one of the world’s major tournaments, but this time there are no shots and yet they are being heard around the world, or at least in Serbia.
The no shots come from, of course, the world’s No.1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic.
So many words have been telegraphed around the world a precis will suffice.
The visa incident quickly escalated into an international one.
Djokovic landed in Australia, thinking he had done everything correct in getting access to this country. Border Force officials at the airport thought not. He was sent into detention at a Carlton hotel, where asylum seekers have been living in limbo for years. He appealed to the Federal Court. He won, the judge Anthony Kelly saying Djokovic had been denied procedural fairness. He was released from detention. The Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is now considering whether to cancel his visa, which is the minister’s prerogative, and since he is not double vaccinated, as all non-citizens, which Morrison reiterated the point, must be to enter.
The storm caused a racket here and back in Serbia. Djokovic’s family compared his son to a persecuted Jesus undergoing a kind of torture in his hotel room. There were demonstrations in the streets in Belgrade and in Carlton, both for Djokovic and for those seeking to publicise the plight of the refugees.
The visa incident quickly escalated into an international one. Serbia’s foreign secretary summoned Australia’s envoy to demand Djokovic be moved to somewhere more in keeping with his stature as a Serbian national hero. The phones started ringing. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said calls between officials and ministers had taken place.
Vucic was been speaking personally to Djokovic. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was speaking personally to the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
It would seem gunboat diplomacy had been averted. And there were no shots.
If only in 1914. But of course one was of global significance that could not possibly been foreseen when Princip pulled the trigger. By doing so the assassin set off a chain off events like a set of fireworks that resulted in the deaths and wounding of tens of millions, a fracturing of a generation and the tectonic shift in power balances and the laying of the foundations for the Second World War.
It was the start of the collapse of a world order that took decades to wash through the world and coalesce into another.
And here we are in Melbourne less than a week out from the Australian Open. We’re waiting for what no shots will bring.