My fave tennies-ace 'dates'

It was to be the start of a beautiful romance, although clearly a one-sided one.

My Wimbledon love affair started the moment I stepped on the sacred grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

The arena is a living colosseum to the world's oldest tennis competition, and you know in an instant that you are in a tournament steeped in rich history, dripping with tradition.

It feels rather like a giddy first date but, like the top players in the tournament, I had to put my game face on and get on with the interviewing job.

First up, it is round-robin interviews with the tennis stars: Just three minutes with each tennis player. Speed dating, anyone?

I have never tried speed dating, but I know it involves speaking to many people over a short period, leaving a good first impression, getting the other person to like you within a short time and getting to know as much about them as quickly as possible.

Well, that meant I had to ask the best questions possible to get the most interesting answers. So, with the hard-hitting questions out of the way, I found myself asking: "Which is your favourite restaurant to eat at while at Wimbledon?"

Now that I think about it, it is a rather "first date-ish" sort of question. I like light-hearted questions because they sometimes give you better insights into their personalities. It's not so that you can stalk them later.

So here are some of my "dates" that stood out.

Date No.4: They say that one way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and world no. 16, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, often makes reference to his girlfriend who is whipping up dinners for him at home during these two weeks of competition.

They head out occasionally. Italian, maybe Indian, he said. It's nice to know the big wigs of tennis are not all about fancy restaurants and posh dining.

Date No.7: It's always a good thing when your tennis star cracks a smile at your attempt at being funny.

Having just been knocked out of the tournament, Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun had apparently been bracing himself for something a little more critical.

"I wasn't expecting that question," he chuckled while patting his belly. Ice broken - success! This is another man that loves being pampered at home. This time, though, by his mother.

Along with many of the Taiwanese players, he'll sometimes eat at Chinatown, 30 minutes away in London. Note to self: Must check out the tofu.

Date No.9: It is said that you make a decision about a person within the first three seconds of meeting them. Within the first three seconds of meeting former world No.6, France's Gilles Simon, I had decided I could listen to his accent all day.

Before you know it, the round-robin session is over, and I'm called to the next task on my assignment list. Who is my next lucky date?

myp@sph.com.sg

Catch Renai Mattu on STAR Sports' coverage of the Wimble- don. Watch more than 340 matches live online on ESPN Player, in high-definition on ESPN HD and on the go on Mobile ESPN


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