Nguyen: World Cup Fever At Wimbledon
Published June 25, 2014 12:12
LONDON, England - Amongst the quiet, leafy confines of the All England Club there's a little tennis tournament happening. The players will tell you it is the most prestigious tournament on the 11-month calendar, not only because of its history - it is the oldest of the four majors - but also because it is, quite simply, the most difficult one to win.
But Wimbledon feels different this year. Listen in on conversations around the grounds and they're less about debating draw sheets and more about debating penalty shots and more about analyzing lineups. See, 5,500 miles away there's another tournament happening. It too involves a long list of nations and it too involves well-manicured (hopefully, anyway) grass. There's no denying that the World Cup has stolen its share of the sporting spotlight over the last few weeks and the tennis community is not immune.
Caroline Wozniacki, who prides herself a big Liverpool supporter during the regular soccer season, is tracking the action too. Wozniacki is a woman without a country because Denmark failed to qualify. "I don't really have a favorite team this year," she said. "I'm kind of going game by game and seeing who I support."
Then there's Victoria Azarenka. Belarus didn't qualify for the World Cup but she's thrown her support over to Lionel Messi's Argentina, even painting her nails with the Argentinian flag. "Why not?" she said when asked why she sided with Argentina. "Because I've been a supporter of Argentina for the last three World Cups. They even have pictures of me wearing an Argentina shirt from 2010. I love Messi. I think he's one of the greatest players of all time. He's so little, so cute."
And if you really want to get into the spirit, follow Andrea Petkovic on Twitter. She's been live-tweeting the matches non-stop with great wit and humor since the tournament began. When I spoke with her at the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens last week she told me the World Cup had provided order to her life. "I'm planning my evenings around World Cup," Petkovic told me. "I make sure I get everything I have to do finished by the evening so I can sit down and watch the game. My life just makes complete sense now."
Of course, not everyone is swept up in World Cup fever. Ana Ivanovic doesn't fancy herself much of a soccer fan and the young Americans are trying their best but the game still escapes them. Asked whether she stayed up late to watch the US lose to Portugal on Sunday night, Stephens said no. "Someone scored in the last three seconds and it wasn't the US so that's what I do know."
Madison Keys was at a loss, too. "There are a couple of times where I just don't understand what's going on," she said. "I'm just like, 'Wait, why does he have a free kick? Why is the other guy rolling on the ground? No one touched him!'"
But even in the midst of one of the biggest tournaments of the year, athletes are athletes. They just love to see top level competition, regardless of the sport.