15 June 2018

Football Fever (and why the tennis players will be watching)

The World Cup has started. So what do tennis players do? Watch and play football of course!

When they get the chance, the players on the tennis circuit play football. Although, according to Sir Andy Murray there is an agreement not to tackle too hard, lest they cause an injury, the current top players could easily form a squad. Murray, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic could all have been top footballers had they not chosen tennis instead and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga apparently, is a nifty right back. Murray and his coaching team have played tennis-football as a Wimbledon warm up and recognising a great idea when it saw one, Nike got Nadal to play tennis against Cristiano Ronaldo.


When it comes to keepy uppy, Tim Henman is second to none but Federer is rather better at getting a tennis ball over the net than a football.

Plenty of the female players are as keen on the beautiful game as the men. Garbine Muguruza can control a ball just as well with her feet as her racket and former top British player Rachel Viollet, daughter of Busby Babe and Manchester United player Dennis Viollet, might have made football her sport had there been more opportunities to play when she was growing up. Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki are daughters of professional footballers, as was the late Elena Baltacha.

As for the footballers, there are some who might also have been playing a different sport on grass. Peter Crouch was an avid tennis player until he decided on football instead and Paolo Maldini, star of AC Milan actually qualified for a doubles tennis tournament last year, at the aged of 49 (alas he lost). No strangers to pressure, footballer managers understand what it takes to get out of a tight spot and Sir Alex Ferguson, often seen in the royal box at Wimbledon, gave Murray tips on handling the big moments. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is also a big fan of how tennis players handle what is essentially a lonely game. David Beckham helped out the ball kids by catching a ball in the royal box at Wimbledon, and has passed on his ball skills to Romeo his tennis-loving son.


Romeo showed off his forehand against Wozniacki in April but then he had already practised against Andy Murray at Queens a couple of years ago. From Wembley to Wimbledon? It’s a shorter distance than you might think.