LONDON: From Roger Federer debating where his loyalties lie to Gael Monfils revelling in England’s beer-soaked celebrations, it’s safe to say World Cup fever has broken out at Wimbledon.
With Wimbledon’s two-week tournament running at the same time as the World Cup, many of tennis’s top stars are dividing their time between their own title aspirations and those of the footballers in Russia.
The World Cup is the talk of the locker room, according to Frenchman Monfils, with players putting aside on-court rivalries to gather round when matches are on television.
“The World Cup is definitely different. We have been chatting in the locker room, and for sure I have some comments. I watched the games actually in the locker room,” Monfils said.
The flamboyant Monfils took his World Cup fixation one step further, venturing into London to watch some of England’s dramatic last 16 win over Colombia on Tuesday.
Spotting a packed pub, Monfils stepped inside to see the tense penalty shoot-out finale and couldn’t believe how raucous the atmosphere was.
“I saw on the phone it was the shootout and I saw a pub, so I just went in and watched it,” he said.
“Unbelievable. Crazy, crazy! I can’t describe it. I was scared to have my phone.
“It was jumping, screaming. Everything. Beers, everything. It was great.”
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer, also a father of four children, has managed to find room in his busy schedule to watch the World Cup.
But the Swiss great was left frustrated on Tuesday when his country were eliminated after a 1-0 defeat by Sweden.
“I was disappointed. I expected more from the team. But that’s the thing with knock-out,” he said after routing Lukas Lacko.
“I felt it’s an opportunity missed. I think we had our chance against Sweden.
“I think we deserved what we got. Maybe we’re not part of the best eight in the world.”
With England’s hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time since 1966 in mind, Federer was told by a reporter there was only one team he should support now Switzerland are out.
“Is there? I don’t know who I’m going to root for yet. I have to check it out,” he said with a smile.
“But my favourite team is gone, so it won’t be the same any more for me.”
American 10th seed Madison Keys, whose country didn’t qualify, wasn’t so reticent about joining England’s World Cup cause — thanks to her noisy evening watching the Colombia match with former junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson.
“I watched England play last night. I was actually watching with Laura. She was singing the “it’s coming home” song consistently for two-and-a-half hours,” Keys said.
“Where I am in the village I can hear the Rose & Crown. My TV was ahead of theirs, so something would happen and Laura would scream, and then, like, five seconds later the whole pub would scream.
“I was actually into it at the very end. So now I’m cheering for England.”
But the World Cup could also pose a scheduling problem for two players as the final in Russia is scheduled to kick off just hours after the Wimbledon men’s title match on July 15.
Mick Desmond, commercial and media director at the All England Club, said there were no plans to change the Wimbledon timetable after discussions with football governing body FIFA.
“It’s slightly surprising FIFA had the idea of kick-off at four o’clock. It’s not something they’ve done in the past, but that’s the decision,” he said.
“You know, our final always starts at two o’clock – we’ll start at two o’clock.”
With France facing Uruguay in the quarter-finals on Friday, that means there’s a chance world number 44 Monfils — a second-round winner on Wednesday — could be double-booked on finals day.
“I’d be the first player to walk over to see the World Cup!” he joked.