London: Tennis’s top stars should be concentrating on Wimbledon, which got under way 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.
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.