Wimbledon: Shaq, the big tennis fan; Victoria Azarenka loves Lionel Messi | Inquirer Sports

Wimbledon: Shaq, the big tennis fan; Victoria Azarenka loves Lionel Messi

/ 09:30 AM June 24, 2014
shaq wimbledon

US retired basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, left, talks to an unidentified woman as he watches a match on the centre court during the first day at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday, June 23, 2014. AP

LONDON — Here’s a new nickname for Shaquille O’Neal: The Big Tennis Fan.

The former NBA star — who famously dubbed himself Shaq-Fu, Diesel, Superman and The Big Aristotle, among other monikers — showed up at Wimbledon on Monday.


The 7-foot-1 (2.16-meter) O’Neal sat in the Royal Box at Centre Court and joined thousands of spectators in greeting Andy Murray with a standing ovation when the 2013 champion walked out for the first match of his title defense.

After Murray’s victory, he got a chance to meet Shaq and chat.


“He’s a big boy, that’s for sure. He was huge. He’s very entertaining,” Murray, a big basketball fan, said with a smile.

“He said that was the first time he’d been to the tennis before,” Murray added. “He enjoyed it.”


SELFIE TIME: Andy Murray found time to pause and pose for a fan’s selfie before his first match Monday as Wimbledon’s defending champion.

Walking across the grounds at the All England Club less than two hours ahead of his 2014 Centre Court debut, Murray passed a gate where a man and woman shouted out a request for a picture.

With a white towel draped around his neck, a racket bag on his shoulder, and a blue pair of sneakers in his hand, Murray wandered over and obliged.

Here’s their photo.


Rafael Nadal also stopped to make some fan’s day by appearing in a picture.


LOST IN TRANSLATION: There was unintended hilarity at Ernests Gulbis’ news conference on Monday at Wimbledon, when the Latvian player misunderstood a question.

“Get rid of vampires?” Gulbis replied.

A few minutes later, Gulbis realized he had heard the question incorrectly.

“My God. Umpires? I thought something else. I thought ‘vampires,’ (like) the people who are surrounding and sucking the energy out of players. That’s what I meant,” Gulbis said.

The topic arose because three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said over the weekend he thought umpires weren’t needed in tennis and that players could call their own lines.

Eventually Gulbis let everyone know he didn’t agree with that stance.

“Without umpires, it wouldn’t work,” said Gulbis, who beat Jurgen Zopp of Estonia 7-6 (7), 7-5, 7-6 (10).


THOUGHTS ON BRAZIL: The World Cup continues to be a topic of conversation at Wimbledon, although defending champion Andy Murray would prefer that it not be included in his daily questions.

Murray was asked for the second consecutive day to comment on England not making it out of the group stage in Brazil.

“I’d appreciate it if that wasn’t brought up when I was playing because I’m yet to hear Wayne Rooney talk about my matches at Wimbledon,” Murray said Monday after his first-round win. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

Victoria Azarenka had no problem commenting. Her native Belarus didn’t qualify for the tournament so the former No. 1 is cheering for Argentina.

Azarenka has her fingernails painted in light blue, in honor of the South American team, although it’s Lionel Messi that sweeps her off her feet.

“I love Messi. I think he’s one of the greatest players of all time. He’s so little, so cute,” Azarenka said after advancing to the second round.

“What goes through your mind when you watch Messi?” she was asked.

“You don’t want to know,” Azarenka replied, laughing. “You don’t want to know.”


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TAGS: Andy Murray, Ernests Gulbis, Lionel Messi, Shaquille O'Neal, Tennis, Victoria Azarenka, Wimbledon, World Cup
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