© Ella Ling

Maria Sharapova - runner-up

Olympics: Other athletes fascinated by tennis players


There are only a few tennis players who have braved it out to stay in the Olympic Park, risking being stuck in the London traffic for the long journey from Stratford to Wimbledon in an effort to be close to the action at the Games itself.

You can see why the more experienced players, those who have played in the Olympics before, would choose to give it a miss but for those making their debuts, who can blame them for wanting a taste of the action? Walking round the place, it has struck me that the tennis players are, at least for many nations, the most famous athletes in their team and therefore it is no surprise to learn that they have been subjected to plenty of attention from other athletes. Maria Sharapova, paying the place a visit, was mobbed by fellow competitors when she tried to have lunch in the main canteen and didn’t even manage to get anything to eat before deciding to leave. Serena Williams was spotted by 100 metres star Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis, who let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that he is a fan of the Wimbledon champion.

Tennis may be a poor cousin when it comes to Olympic sports, a runt of the family only occasionally allowed a seat at the table, to confuse three metaphors, but tennis players, conversely, are among the biggest stars at any Games. Roger Federer is staying in Wimbledon Village rather than the Olympic Village but if he ventures over this way, as he did for a pre-Games press conference, the attention is enormous.

All athletes are fascinated by their fellow competitors in other sports and it goes well beyond sports. Swapping pins may be a bit of fun but actually meeting each other is far more interesting for them and meeting tennis players is all the more fun because they are so famous in their own right through their visibility on television. Some of them are probably envious of the cash the very top players earn but otherwise, you can bet your last pound that they are exchanging bits of gossip and tit-bits of information about what it means to be at the top of their game.

Just a quick word about the mixed doubles at the Olympics, which I think is actually more in the spirit of the Games than the singles, which, with its ranking points attached, could be seen as just an extension of the regular Tour. The Bryan brothers will be favourites – Bob with Liezel Huber and Mike with Lisa Raymond – but with the exception of those two, there would be few pairs who would be confident if they run into Andy Murray and Laura Robson. The British pair have played a bit together in the Hopman Cup team event and if they are both fully fit, then they can play well.