Rafa, Nole and Andy – part of a soccer tennis dream team?
I think it fair to say that the World Cup has eclipsed Wimbledon this year, what with the biting and the shouting and the salsa-dancing and the making of breakfast chicken enchiladas for the U.S. team and the holding up of the Uruguayan team’s dulce de leche in Brazilian customs and a point system that implies that even I might make the finals, just the whole internationalism of it. And you know what? Tennis is fine with it, because a lot of tennis players are soccer buffs.
Tennis actually has a lot in common with soccer as both require lots of fancy footwork. Indeed, YouTubers can check out videos of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic playing soccer tennis, in which they use only their heads and feet to get the ball over the net. That Rafa and Nole, never at a loss for a way to entertain.
Andy Murray – another country heard from, literally – was asked at the French Open to name an all-star soccer team made of tennis players and he named Rafa at midfield, Nole at left back and himself as striker. Notice that Andy didn’t mention Roger Federer, but Feddy apparently grew up thinking soccer as much as tennis.
Anyway, there are also plenty of pix on the Internet of Rafa, Nole and Andy playing soccer during their downtime, because nothing says downtime for an athlete quite like playing another sport.
All kidding aside, former tennis pro Fritz Bruehning – director of tennis at SPORTIME Lake Isle in Eastchester, N.Y. and annex director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy there – recently told me that soccer is probably the best cross-training for a tennis player, as it involves running and a ball. I myself can attest to the running, having spent much of my gym time in my convent school days covering huge chunks of a vast green expanse – all in an effort to avoid contact with the ball and any other player.
For me, tennis offers an individualism and containment (the court fits so nicely on the TV screen, just like a baseball diamond) that are just fascinating.
And though tennis has its temper tantrums, there’s no biting, although Ernests Gulbis recently delivered a soliloquy on vampires but that’s only because he didn’t realize the conversation was about tennis umpires.
Ernests, pay attention. How else are you going to join the all-star tennis soccer team?