Tennis players who excel in chess
IWAS an athlete during my younger years. Aside from being competitive in basketball, I was also into swimming and tennis. I had a best time of 1:05 in the 100 m freestyle, not good enough for competitive play but still better than most.
I also played a lot of tennis in Cagayan de Oro but I had a bad backhand so I shifted to its distant cousins, squash, badminton and the craze in the 70s, pelota, when I was transferred to Manila.
The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually in Melbourne, Australia. First held in 1905, the tournament is the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events of the year--the other three being the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open
The Australian Open is currently ongoing now and my article today is about chess-playing tennis professionals.
It seems that there is a connection between tennis and chess.
Boris Becker was one of the greatest tennis players, winning Wimbledon at age 17. He played an exhibition match against Kasparov ”live” on CNN for one hour in 2000. Kasparov was in New York and Becker was in Munich. He once said that his experiences with chess influenced his playing style in tennis.
Becker also said that Roger Federer is the best chess player in the ATP tour and regards his strategic thinking as the key to the Swiss star’s success. Becker said that chess should be used by the current top players to gain a competitive and mental edge over their opponents.
The tennis doubles partners and twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are chess players. They have won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles. Mike Bryan has been quoted as saying “I have to play tennis like a chess game.”
In his early days, whenever Federer lost a game to his father, he would knock all the pieces off the board.
Here is a conversation between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic:
Roger: We saw you behind us in our white limo as we drove here. What was with all your make up?
Novak: Oh, I was just clowning around. Do you want us to play a game of chess with you? Andy: You’re right Novak, let us play. Roger: All right, all right. In fact, you know, I was about to play chess with Rafa.
Rafael: That is right. This is funny, no? You all want to play chess, no? But not me.
Roger: Whatever, don’t listen to what the guy says. Majority rules.
During the rain-delayed US Open, Dmitry Schneider, an international master played a simul against eight tennis players in the player lounge. Twins Mike and Bob Bryan and Max Mirnyi took their seats early. Jennifer Capriati ran to tell her father.
“During the rain delays there’s not a lot that the players can do and a lot of athletes play chess,” said Schneider.
Retired tennis player Elena Dementieva, once ranked No. 3 in the world, plays chess. She used to play chess in the players’ lounge with her brother or any other chess player. Anna Kournikova is also a chess player. Her sex appeal and celebrity status made her one of the best known tennis stars worldwide despite her never winning a WTA singles title.
Sir George Alan Thomas was a British badminton, tennis and chess player. He was twice British chess champion and a 21-time All-England Badminton champion. He reach the quarterfinals in Wimbledon in 1911. Badminton’s world men’s team championships cup, equivalent to tennis’s Davis Cup, is named Thomas Cup after him. He played for England in seven chess Olympiads and approached GM strength. He was a unique doublecaptain in chess and badminton.
Tennis great Ivan Lendl plays chess. His father, Jiri Lendl, was a chess master, Czech junior champion and played in the Czechoslovakian chess championship.
Former tennis professional Greg Rusedski is an avid chess player. So is John McEnroe, who is without doubt one of tennis’ all-time greats,