The top 5 hobbies of ATP players worldwide. Still players off court.
As tennis fans, we often forget that ATP pros have hobbies outside the courts. We see them give 100 percent during their matches and can’t imagine they would want to do anything other than relax when it is over. Yet, like many professional athletes, many ATP tennis players feel a need to sustain their physical and mental activity during every waking hour. They are involved in businesses, invest in ventures, work as brand ambassadors to products and corporations, donate time and money to charities, and they have hobbies.
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Being competitive is an occupational hazard of being a professional athlete, so it’s no surprise that even their off-court pastimes involve athletics, competition or both. While there are always a few unusual hobbies, such as Andy Murray’s love for boxing, go-karting and his PlayStation 4, the most popular hobbies will come as no surprise. What may be surprising is how successful these tennis players have been at their pastimes.
Footballers at Heart
ESPN, Sports Illustrated and, of course, FIFA all agree that soccer (otherwise known as football in most of the world) is the most popular sport across the globe, with over 3.4 billion estimated fans. It is also the most popular pastime of the top tennis pros as well. Some love to play; some love to watch and some might have gone pro if they had chosen it instead of tennis as a career.
Roger Federer, currently number 7 in the world ATP rankings, was playing both tennis and soccer equally at the age of 8 before going on to pursue tennis professionally. Still a huge fan, Federer supports his home team Switzerland’s FC Basel. Former pros Yannick Noah and Nicolas Escude are also huge soccer fans, avidly following their French home team.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, ranked #4 and #1 respectively, both took time out from the Madrid Masters this year to watch as their favorite team, the Real Madrid, take their place in the Champions League Final. There is also quite a lot of speculation that Nadal would have been equally successful had he pursued a professional career in football. Nadal and Djokovic showed off their own soccer skills playing a match of “Soccer Tennis” against one another.
Perfecting the Poker Face
When they want to relax their bodies but keep their minds sharp, many pro ATP players turn to poker. It appeals to the competitive nature of the tennis player and provides a different sort of excitement than is found court side. Poker also has made several tennis pros quite a lot of additional prize money, and quite a few former tennis pros have gone pro at the felt table.
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Six time Grand Slam title winner Boris Becker is one of the biggest former tennis stars to take up the game of poker. He is a regular on the European Poker Tour. Yevgeny Kafelnikov achieved tennis career wins totaling over $23 million and has since gone on to win over $150,000 playing poker, including competing in the World Series of Poker.
Rafael Nadal really keeps busy off the court, not only with soccer and golf, but he is also a popular face at the poker tables. He seems to enjoy playing both online and live poker and he has participated in several European Poker Tour games. In fact, he has gone so far as to play against Vanessa Selbst, the only woman ever to reach number one on the World Poker Index.
From 15-Love to Par 4
Golf is another of the top ten sports worldwide, with an estimated 450-million fan base. While many find it a relaxing pastime, it is also a game of skill and has become more popular over the last twenty years as professional golfers like Tiger Woods made an impression on the media, advertising and the once quiet fans. It is also a favorite game for many tennis pros, such as (again) Djokovic and Nadal.
Andy Murray, ranked #2 in the ATP and winner of a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, is also a golf fanatic. Murray is near invincible on the green, but states that playing golf makes him a little stiff so he doesn’t play during match time. Instead, he switches to watching it on television. Many say his golf success may have to with not having an official handicap. However, Murray states he is just a good player with an average handicap.
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Golf is also popular among retired tennis pros. Tim Henman (above), with 11 career tennis titles, can often be seen playing golf around the world at some of the most famous courses. A phenomenally good golfer, his handicap peaked at +1 in 2014. Retired American tennis pro, Andy Roddick, won over $20 million in prize money during his tennis career. He retired from tennis in 2012 and his love of golf led him to his first professional golf tournament in Pebble Beach in 2013.
Get Your B-Ball On
Basketball also makes the top ten sports in the world with over 400 million fans and surprisingly, it makes the top 5 pastimes of pro tennis players, current and retired. Reilly Opelka is one of the tallest players ever to join the ATP tour. At 6’11”, it comes as no surprise that he also loves to play basketball when not on the tennis court. Taylor Fritz (far left, below), currently ranked 58th in the ATP, also loves a good game of b-ball.
Nick Kyrgios, currently ranked #15, openly says he prefers basketball to tennis, having been pushed into pro tennis by his parents. Krygios joined Opelka, Fritz and newcomer Christopher Eubanks to play a little two on two hoops at the famous Georgia Tech Arena when taking a break from the BB&T Atlanta Open. The four were seen switching teams and dribbling down the court for hours. Krygios is a loyal Boston Celtics fan.
Other basketball fans are #3 ranked doubles pro Jean Julien Roger and #29 ranked singles player Sam Querrey, who is a Los Angeles Lakers fan and loves to play as well. The competition shifts from court to court.
Escape to the Snowy Slopes
Finally, when tennis pros want to take a break from the court and spend some peaceful time alone yet maintain physical stamina and reaction skills, many enjoy downhill skiing. While tennis and skiing couldn’t be any more dissimilar, tennis pro Novak Djokovic credits his skill on the tennis court to his background in skiing. He believes his ankle strength and flexibility is due to his years on the slopes. He has also revealed how close he came to choosing skiing over tennis.
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Ranked #7, Roger Federer has a love of skiing and has playfully joked that he could easily beat Lindsay Vonn, the greatest American skier ever, in skiing. Swiss born, his love of the slopes is boundless. 10th ranked Dominic Theim is also an avid skier and lover of ski jumping, both watching and jumping himself when not on a tournament.
While the variety of other hobbies among ATP players ranges from video games to cricket to simply watching movies, most cannot exist without taking part in something athletic or competitive outside the tennis court. Keeping their skills honed, their competitive nature active and their energy flowing seems to be of utmost importance on and off the court for these tennis stars.