Back in the 1980s, John McEnroe played a bit of basketball with some of the NBA stars and was good enough, they said, to have been a good player himself had he not chosen tennis. The most common cross-over these days is golf and we’ve compiled the 10 best (of the ones we know about because we know we will have forgotten someone) golf-playing tennis stars.
The left-handed Australian turned to golf (right-handed) towards the end of an injury-hit career. Even while he was winning the 2005 mixed doubles title with Sam Stosur, he was also playing golf in the Victoria Open. After earning his Tour card in Australia, he won his first professional tournament in 2007, at the New South Wales PGA Tournament. He returned to tennis to become a coach with Tennis Australia but there was even talk of a film being made of his life, with Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg both rumoured to be potential leads. “It’s OK,” Draper said, “as long as it’s not Danny DeVito.”
The consensus on the men’s Tour right now is that Fish is the best golfer out there. As with many right-handed players), Fish plays golf left-handed and by all accounts, drives the ball a mile. The American is good friends with Spain’s Sergio Garcia – the Ryder Cup star is a tidy tennis player himself and stayed with Fish during Wimbledon this year – and Fish’s wife Stacey jokes that when he is done with tennis, he might try the golf tour. Fish says his strong point is his driving and his weakness is his putting.
Lendl is another righty tennis player, lefty golfer, something he puts down to the way he played ice hockey as a kid. As competitive at golf as he was at tennis, Lendl played in two Czech Opens, a few events on the Nationwide Tour and once tried to qualify for the US Open. His coaching set-up with Andy Murray still allows him to play plenty of golf and the eight-times major winner had won his club championship hallway through events at Flushing Meadows. Oh, and three of his five daughters all play to a very high standard.
Like Lendl and Draper, the Russian turned to golf when his tennis career ended. In terms of results, he has been more akin to Lendl than Draper but in what was his third professional event, the Austrian Open in July of this year, he missed the cut by (only) eight shots, his best effort yet. Having turned his back on the Russian golf association, he is now hoping to represent Ukraine in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Apart from two weeks every summer and the odd commercial engagement through one of his sponsors, the former British No 1 can be found on the golf course more often than not. Always good, Henman got his handicap down to scratch after retiring and has played in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship pro-am event on several occasions and is due to do so again this year. If his back holds up, maybe he could make it to the Seniors Tour.
In his autobiography, Nadal talks about the period when he was out through injury, thinking he may never play again. Maybe I could play golf professionally”, he said. It may have been a fleeting thought but Nadal is as competitive on the course as on the court and does not like talking during his round, so desperate is he to maintain focus. His swing is organic but very effective and at 26, he has time on his side.
In his biography on the ATP World Tour site, the American former grand slam finalist was described as “one of best golfers on Tour with a two handicap”. Like Henman, he struggled with back problems, but on the golf course his languid nature must fit right in. Twice a grand-slam finalist, Martin has played in the Tim and Tom Gullikson Foundation’s “Swingtime” pro-celebrity event on several occasions.
Jamie Murray (and Andy Murray)
According to his biography, the older Murray brother has a handicap of three, which is good in anyone’s books. It must be galling then, that younger brother Andy has been known to get the better of him from time to time, despite being considerably less naturally talented at the sport. With Ivan Lendl around, perhaps the competition between the two will heat up even more but for now, Jamie has the edge
The Zimbabwean kept his skills under wraps, for the most part, but as of 2011 he was playing off a handicap of three and turning up on the Volvo Amateur Tour and doing pretty well thank you very much. One of the nicest guys on the tennis circuit, Ulyett will be hosting a special practice session for members at Wentworth Golf Club on September, involving Andy Murray. It’s a sell-out, unsurprisingly.
Now OK, this is a joke one because the women’s world No 3 doesn’t really play the game but we had to put her in just for some fun, thanks to one ridiculous shot she produced in a special video for the WTA Tour. Lining up left-handed, as did Jelena Jankovic, she played a show few people are capable of, at least not deliberately. Here’s the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKM_fUFPBlw
For the record, Daniela Hantuchova is the best current female player we know of, thanks, no doubt, from a few tips from Sergio Garcia, who hits with her at tennis occasionally.
Now we know we have missed out some good players. Pete Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt, Wayne Ferreira, Andy Roddick, Sam Querrey, John Isner, Colin Fleming, Ross Hutchins and Martina Navratilova can all play. If there are more, please let us know!