U.S. Open scenes: No pleasantries on the practice courts

Mny tennis fans think the players on the WTA and ATP Tours are a fraternal, congenial lot, bound together by the commonality of what they do. Or at least, they want to think that’s the case.

But on the practice courts, it’s all business. It’s tunnel vision; it’s like there’s no one else around.

It’s situation normal on the match court, where the players (even the good pals) pretend the other one’s not there.

Bouchard-SolerEspinosa

Well, sometimes when the opponent has collapsed on the other side of the court, there’s a show of concern. All of that is more to be expected.

On the practice courts, without the stress of competition, you somehow think there would be more interaction.

For example, top Canadians Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard practiced next to each other during this U.S. Open once for an hour, and only said a brief ‘hey’.

Bouchard and Maria Sharapova also practiced side-by-side in New York, without acknowledging each other with even a nod. And they DID A PHOTO SHOOT TOGETHER! Nike (and soon-to-be IMG) sisterhood!!!

Nah. Working.

That’s just how it is. No one seems to be offended by it; it seems as though it’s the support staff’s job to make nice when they randomly cross each others’ paths. It speaks to their focus when they’re working; they’re in their own little bubble, shutting out everything else even when it seems fairly casual.

Tournaments often schedule players who will be squaring off an hour or two later on the practice courts together. They’ll spend a half-hour or 45 minutes within 10 feet of each other and not even acknowledge each others’ presence. You’d think it would be awkward, but it isn’t even.

It’s the strangest thing, really. Like two boxers sharing a ring for some pre-bout sparring a few hours before a big pay-per-view. You’d think the coaches would at least give the other player the side-eye, or watch intently to see what they’re doing. Or that SOMEONE would throw some shade on SOMEONE!  But, no, nothing.

Frank Dancevic and Joao Sousa at the U.S. Open:

Dancevic-Sousa_new

Bouchard and Shahar Pe’er at the French Open (Bouchard would later thrash her):

Bouchard-Peer_new

Even Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, before they played their French Open final a few years ago, warmed up on Court Philippe Chatrier at the same time. And it was as if the other wasn’t there for most of it.

Federer-Djoko-RG_new

Later that summer, the two practiced on adjoining courts in Montreal – they were in such proximity that their back sweat was practically co-mingling. But, nah, nothin’. And these two are quite friendly.

Federer-Djoko-RogersCup_new

It’s not a universal rule. Obviously some players are pals and when they cross on the practice courts, they bro-hug and high-five and all that. But it’s amazing how oblivious they are to each other, most of the time.

As with most things of this type, the men are better at it than the ladies. Of course, they also practice together a lot more often than the ladies do, as well, particularly those who are countrymen.

Here’s a snippet of a few minutes on the practice courts at the U.S. Open, late in the tournament, when the Bryan brothers arrived, countrywoman Serena Williams left, and both passed right by Roger Federer.

Seriously, nothin’!

They come and go as one player bumps another off the court as though they’re random strangers most of the time.

It’s not earth-shattering stuff. But it’s a little side of the pro tennis life that you don’t get to see on television.

And then, of course, there’s that guy who has to ruin it for everyone!

Daveed. That’s a doll-face, right there.

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9 thoughts on “U.S. Open scenes: No pleasantries on the practice courts

  1. Fun post, even though this is unsurprising. What would be really interesting is seeing how they interact at parties!

    We did notice a lot of fraternizing on the practise courts in Toronto this summer. Most noticeably, especially after today’s news concerning Stephane Vivier, between Federer and Dimitrov who were yukking it up quite a bit one morning. Rumour was they even had some kind of bet going (which Fed lost and paid for with push ups),

    • The boys are a LOT better than the girls at this. And Fed and DJoker really are friendly with everyone. Dimitrov’s impossible not to like; guy’s a sweetheart. Would have been WAY better if Vivier had gone to … Team Wawrinka 🙂 🙂

      • I am a big (and at times frustrated) fan of Stan. Would love to see him with another Slam but not sure that’s going to happen for him.
        But I just love watching Grigor play – so am happy for his coup and really hope it makes the difference.

        • That Stan got one is, in my opinion, already pretty great. I think the off-season will do him a lot of good – especially if Switzerland pulls off the Davis Cup final, which I think has been the biggest thing on his mind in the second half of the season. It’s been a year of serious adjustment for him – he’s a *big deal* now. I don’t think many people can even understand how his life has changed. Even though it happened later in his career, I don’t think you can prepare for it.
          As for Dimitrov, he seems to have been in pretty good health the last few years. Obviously it’s a good addition but unlike some like, say, Nishikori, I’m not sure it’s a difference-maker. Just a good addition.

  2. I think after they retire they are a lot more friendly. like on the Champions Tour.

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