Tennis’s top stars should be concentrating on Wimbledon, which got under way on Monday, but the big-name players can’t help keeping an eye on the World Cup football action in Brazil.
The Championships are a football-free zone: the All England Club refuses to show matches on the big screens inside the grounds, while in 1996 America’s Jensen brothers, who wanted to play doubles in England football shirts, were torn off a strip by the tournament organisers.
Nonetheless, the World Cup is the talk of the locker room, according to defending champion Andy Murray.
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With England crashing out of the World Cup early, Britain’s hopes of sporting success now rest on the Scot.
Indeed, the very first press conference question Murray faced at Wimbledon this year was: “How does it feel to have the hopes of a despondent nation on your shoulders?”
Murray replied simply: “Wow.”
“I enjoy it when the World Cup is on. It gives me something to do in the evenings. I don’t have to listen to people talking about me playing at Wimbledon,” the champion said.
“When you walk into the locker room most mornings, that’s what almost all of the players are talking about,” he said of the World Cup.
With champions Spain suffering a humiliating early exit, Murray said the Spanish players had been “a little bit quiet” in the changing rooms.
Rafael Nadal said Spain’s shock defeats did not make him more motivated to restore national sporting pride by winning a third Wimbledon crown.
“I am sad. Everybody in Spain is sad for what happened in the World Cup,” the Mallorcan said.
“But my mentality, my motivation was going to be always at the top to play here at Wimbledon.”
With Serbia not taking part, Novak Djokovic said he was supporting neighbouring countries like Bosnia, Croatia and Greece.
“Hopefully some of them will pass the group stage and get in the knock-out phase. Half of the planet is watching the World Cup now. I’m following the matches,” the 2011 champion said.
Serena Williams said she was watching at least one or two games per day.
“Excited for the US. Obviously I’m rooting for the US,” the five-times Wimbledon winner said.
“I thought the fight that the US male team has was just really great.”
Meanwhile Maria Sharapova said she had been tucked up in bed before Russia’s opening match kicked off, though her entourage has been glued to the screens.
“Every one of my team members is from a different nation, so I’ve been able to watch their games. Germany, Holland, Japan,” said the 2004 champion.
But don’t ask Sharapova for her opinions on Russia’s players. “I’m no expert in football. I’ll tell you that straight off,” she said.
While the players are watching the World Cup, there is no such luck for Wimbledon fans.
An All England Club spokesman said the last time they showed football on the big screens was in 1996 – “so very consistent since then”.
England, hosting the European Championships, reached the semi-finals that year as the nation – plus even the Jensen brothers – was gripped with football fervour.
Not so this year, when England have gone crashing out before even completing their group games.
Dave Jackson, 33, who came over from Belfast to join the queue for Wimbledon tickets on Sunday night, said the line was “so much busier” than 2010, when the last World Cup was on and England reached the second round.
“Before, it would have been tennis fans,” he said.