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