With the U.S. Open getting underway this week, we profiled some of the top names in tennis and discovered their hobbies outside the court.
Despite maintaining busy travel schedules to appear in tournaments around the world, most professional tennis players are forced to endure loads of downtime between matches. For the crossover stars such as Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, this time is filled with interviews, meetings and other events to enhance the global brand. For other players, they opt for different ways to beat the boredom. Here are six of the top names from the U.S. Open who know what it takes to make the most of their off-court hours.
Once regularly ripped in the British tabloids for his on-court petulance, the No. 8 men’s seed Andy Murray has revealed a more relaxed side since fulfilling the expectations of winning a Grand Slam title. His reputation also improved once the public caught wind of his love for karaoke. The tipping point came during the 2010 French Open, when the afro-clad Scotsman memorably squealed along to the Jackson Five‘s “I Want You Back” in a segment for French TV. His sincere if cringe-worthy enthusiasm was so infectious, it prompted American women’s champ Serena Williams to issue a karaoke challenge at Wimbledon the following summer.
The No. 6 women’s seed from Germany, Angelique Kerber enjoys her annual trip to New York City to indulge her appetites for high-end dining and shopping. But what really excites the 2011 U.S. Open semifinalist is the chance to soak in the spectacles of the Great White Way. In recent years, Kerber has taken in Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Ghost, Mamma Mia and Newsies, among Broadway’s popular selections. And no, she didn’t miss her chance to catch the recently cancelled Rocky the Musical, having already crossed the underdog saga off her list back in Germany.
Standing a towering 6’10”, John Isner is naturally drawn to other activities designed for enormous people. But while he does have a basketball background, the No. 13 men’s seed prefers watching a well-executed body slam over a soaring slam dunk any day of the week. Isner became hooked on wrestling as a child in North Carolina, when he and his friends would each pony up $5 to get the pay-per-view specials on television. He still plans his Monday evenings around the WWE Raw TV show when playing in the States, and keeps himself occupied by scanning the WWE website and sending out wrestling-related tweets when abroad.
American Sloane Stephens loves fashion and shopping, which is hardly unusual for a 21-year-old woman. But unlike most young fashion junkies, the Florida native has taken advantage of her ascendant profile to establish a legitimate foothold in the industry. While most participants fled the Big Apple at the close of last year’s Open, Stephens stuck around for Fashion Week, earning the chance to walk the runway at the Just Dance With Boy Meets Girl show. Seeded No. 21 at this year’s tournament, Stephens will look to keep powering her way up the ladder in both the tennis and fashion worlds.
Finding an activity to stimulate the senses is no problem for Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, who seemingly has barely enough time to actually play tennis. Known to fans for her YouTube channel and now-retired postmatch dance, the No. 18 women’s seed is a huge fan of museums and a voracious reader. She loves running and scuba diving, with an eye on learning underwater photography to enhance the experience. While living in New York, she took classes in travel writing and blogging at NYU. And once this pesky tennis career is out of the way, she’s hopeful of pursuing her interests in filmmaking and reporting.
Finally, when it comes to making the most of free time, you’d be hard pressed to find a more dedicated athlete than Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The No. 21 men’s seed enrolled at the University of Moscow in 2005, inching his way through a graduate philosophy program while playing 11 months of the year. After acing a dissertation titled “Professional Tennis Players on the Court,” he graduated with his PhD in December 2011. The veteran pro claims the ultimate goal of his schooling was to help young players, though no one would blame him if he was secretly enamored with the idea of announcers referring to him as “Doctor” Youzhny.