Thursday 28 February 2013
With the announcement this week that Andy Murray has invested in a hotel, Wimbledon.com investigates some of the other off-court interests of the tour's top players...
Who will take centre stage at this summer's Championships? A hotelier? A restauranteur and donkey cheese enthusiast? A candy magnate? A clothes designer? An interior designer? An actress? A tournament owner? Or maybe even an underwear entrepreneur?
Andy Murray, the runner-up to Roger Federer at the All England Club last July, is the latest leading player to embrace his or her inner Trump - he disclosed this week that he has bought a 15-room, Victorian hotel near Dunblane, in Stirlingshire in Scotland, which he intends to turn into a five-star venue. The Scot is said to have paid almost £2 million for Cromlix House Hotel - which some are already jokingly calling 'Double Fawlty Towers' - with its 50 acres of woodland and its loch filled with trout. While Murray hopes that the hotel - which was where his brother Jamie married his Colombian bride Alejandra - "will give something back to the community I grew up in" and help the local economy, he doubtless also wants to turn a profit. And Murray won't be the only one in the Wimbledon draw this summer with a hotel in his portfolio, as RafaelNadal announced the other day that he has invested in a couple of places on Cozumel, a Caribbean island off the coast of Mexico.
Novak Djokovic's business activities have so far had the greatest attention, with the off-season tale that he has bought up the world's supply of donkey cheese for his chain of restaurants. While Djokovic is the King of Cheese in men's tennis, the story wasn't entirely true - he hasn't snaffled the entire supply of pule, a white and crumbly cheese which can cost up to 1000 euros a kilogram. Another top-five player, David Ferrer, has stayed within the tennis industry - he owns part of the tournament in Valencia which is played during the mini-autumn swing in Europe.
The ladies' draw at this summer's Championships will be dotted with businesswomen. At the last couple of Grand Slams, last year's US Open and this season's Australian Open, Maria Sharapova has used her pre-tournament appearances to promote her own range of sweets, Sugarpova, so expect the Russian to prepare for the Wimbledon fortnight with a sweet-toothed PR blitz. Similarly, Caroline Wozniacki is likely to use the grass-court swing as a platform to promote her range of underwear (though clearly not when she is actually out there on grass of the All England Club).
There was once a theory about Serena Williams that her off-court businesses were a distraction, that they were stopping her from achieving her potential as a tennis player. Now, most accept that the reverse is true, that Serena has been a better player because of, and not despite, her extracurricular. In no small way, developing and selling her own pomegranate lip-balm has prevented Serena from burn-out. As has having her own clothing range, Aneres (Serena spelt backwards), which the former Wimbledon champion promotes on the shopping networks. The same applies to her past ambitions to break Hollywood. And no one could accuse her older sister of being a tennis obsessive either - her clothing brand, Eleven, was relaunched before last year's US Open with a party in the Hamptons, and the past Wimbledon champion wears her own creations around the tennis world. This summer, Venus won't be wearing a new tennis dress so much as launching her new line.
But perhaps there isn't anything new about tennis players using their standing to make money away from the courts. Just consider Fred Perry, still the last British man to have won Wimbledon. He lives on, not just in a statue in the grounds of the All England Club, but as a clothing company. There will be some young Britons who won't know Fred Perry as a late and great tennis player, only as a brand of modish polo shirts.
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