COMMENT:

For any new visitors to the planet who happen to be reading this, there was a bit of an incident on a tennis court last week.

This in itself is of course wholly unremarkable. While there are few peer-reviewed studies in this area, it is a fair bet that there is an incident on a tennis court somewhere in the world every second of every day.

Tennis is probably the most psychologically punishing pastime ever devised. In no other sport is a single individual placed under so much pressure under so many watchful eyes.

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You push your body to its maximum physical limits for hours in a box filled with 10,000 people, at every single point you are forced to make the most high-powered and high-precision decisions in a microsecond and the difference between glory and despair rests on the angling of a racquet a quarter of an inch one way or the other.

And you have to do it in conditions that often resemble a kiln. At one point in this year's Australian Open the surface temperature of the court reached 69 degrees. Celsius.

Little wonder that things can get a little heated. Football players might carry on but you rarely see them stabbing the ball. On the very rare occasion a professional golfer abuses their club they are banned from replacing it. But when a tennis player smashes their racquet it is — ironically, unlike golf — par for the course.

Indeed, even the game's great gentleman Roger Federer has done it on more than one occasion. That's why they have so many spares.

That's the sort of game tennis is. It's intense, it's volatile and it's custom-built to make people explode.

So when Serena Williams, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, exploded during the US Open final it was, again, wholly unremarkable. But this column is not about tennis. Because the remarkable thing was what happened next.

During her understandable but utterly nonsensical rant at the umpire who penalised her, Williams called him a "liar" and a "thief", demanded an apology and bizarrely threatened his job: "You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live."

Again, whatever. It's a game of @#$%ing tennis for God's sake. But it was the reason she gave that was most extraordinary: "I have a daughter and I stand for what's right for her."

Notwithstanding the fact that most parents probably tell their kids to play by the rules and accept the umpire's decision, suddenly this was no ordinary dummy spit: This was now both a moral and political statement about the very nature of right and wrong.

Williams claimed that the umpire was driven by sexism, an odd argument given his decisions also went in favour of a woman, and downright perverse given that her behaviour resulted in that woman — a relatively junior player who had idolised Serena — being subjected to horrendous booing from the crowd.

It was also factually absurd given that a subsequent analysis of grand slam decisions from 1998 to 2018 by the New York Times found men were three times more likely than women to be penalised for misbehaviour.

And it didn't sit easily with Williams' previous most infamous outburst, in which she told a lineswoman: "If I could, I would take this f***ing ball and shove it down your f***ing throat."

If that's the sisterhood, thank God I'm a brother.

Then when an Australian cartoonist drew a wholly unremarkable cartoon of Williams carrying on this was suddenly deemed racist, apparently because it exaggerated her features — something cartoons are wont to do.

Incredibly, the same cartoon was also deemed racist for playing down the features of her opponent, who is half-Japanese and half-Haitian. Now the cartoonist stood simultaneously accused of drawing one character too black and the other one not black enough. It really is enough to make you go shopping for a spaceship.

As it happened the cartoonist in question had a long history of drawing caricatures of tennis brats, as well as several anti-Apartheid pieces for good measure. But none of these facts mattered, nor mitigated the death threats now faced by this poor antipodean scribbler who was forced to shut down his Twitter account in the face of a tsunami of abuse.

And why? Because Serena Williams was making a stand. She was standing up to the oppression and injustice that led to her being the most successful and powerful force in tennis history. Indeed, a force so powerful she apparently believes she can choose who umpires her games.

Again, if that's oppression, then God please oppress me.

And again, I have no problem with Serena blowing up. That unbridled passion and limitless self-belief is no doubt part of what makes her so extraordinary. The scary part is that there is an army of sycophants or self-pitying sympathisers who seem to think howling down a young woman trying to make history or threatening the life of an artist just doing his job is somehow striking a blow for the poor and disenfranchised.

As someone who has actually been poor there is something particularly sick about this new kind of progressivism. Indeed, it is a peculiarly condescending view — not to say itself both sexist and racist — that a person who has achieved the almost superhuman status that Serena rightly holds must somehow still be a disempowered victim because she is a black woman.

But the worst part is that it is precisely this bourgeois campus-led obsession of the New Left with race and gender and the proscription of "offensive" behaviour that has allowed the New Right to sweep through marginalised and working class communities and claim them for their own.

For while celebrities and social media scribes were enumerating the countless ways in which a single cartoon about a tennis player was defiling society, another newspaper entry was quietly penned.

The New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote a colour piece of a somewhat different nature. His was about the disconnect between small-town Middle America and the big city hitters on the coast who are wholly convinced of Donald Trump's imminent self-immolation.

His point was instructive: There is every chance Trump could win a second term as President of the United States. Cohen is hardly a cardboard cutout from Fox News central casting. Not only does he work for one of Trump's most hated media organisations but he has been deeply critical of Israel — Trump's most beloved foreign power — and defensive of Iran — Trump's most despised foreign power.

By the standard dumb reckoning of both the hard right and the hard left, Cohen should be baying for Trump's blood.

Yet when assessing the President's chances of going the full eight years this is what he said: "The chances of a two-term Trump presidency remain significant. I came away from a recent stay in purple-state Colorado more persuaded of this than ever.

"The strong economy became strong under Barack Obama but to deny Trump credit for it is not going to wash with most Americans. They feel a new confidence. They see it in more clients at the hardware store, more people eating out, more business start-ups."

And yet all the left's attention is focused on a very different opinion piece in The New York Times, this one from an anonymous writer supposedly inside the Trump administration whose headline declared: "I Am Part of the Resistance".

Now I am pretty sure that the first rule of the Resistance is that you don't talk about the Resistance. The reason for this is that as soon as you do, the people you are supposed to be resisting will start hunting you down and then, well, resistance will be useless.

Indeed, if whoever wrote the article really wanted "the Resistance" to succeed, he or she would have shut the f**k up about it and kept doing whatever it is they were claiming they did.

As it stands now, Trump is already on a witch hunt and will no doubt purge whatever few remaining sane brains there are in his White House. Well done Resistance Writer!

But of course actually doing good or achieving a result was never the point. The point was the Resistance Writer had to, you guessed it, make a stand. And in an age where you can't even eat a meal without posting it on Instagram there is no point making a stand unless everybody knows about it.

It would be calming to dismiss Cohen's stroll through small town America as idiosyncratic whimsy and the grandstanding by Serena's out-there army and the apparently all-powerful Washington underground as harmless narcissism but the problem is that it was the dismissal of all this that delivered us Trump in the first place.

Who can forget the supremely self-aggrandising "I'm with her" line run by Hillary Clinton that turned an unlosable presidential campaign into an east coast vanity project complete with its own as-yet-unbroken glass ceiling at the victory party?

And who can forget the fact that Trump swept through the working class rust-belt states of Middle America while Hillary was partying with Beyonce?

Tellingly, Hillary supporters still regard the fact she lost the election while winning the popular vote as a great injustice. In fact it only underscores how hopelessly smug her campaign was. To take home almost three million more votes than your opponent yet still lose the critical swing states is an almost savant level of incompetence.

If so-called progressive forces really want to wrest power back from the populist tidal wave that is ploughing through the foundations of liberal democratic institutions the world over they need to stop worrying about the feelings of millionaire tennis players and White House martyrs and start worrying about the feelings of ordinary working people.

They may not have as many Twitter followers but they've got a hell of a lot more votes.