Black hearts, messy divorces, mixed doubles blossoming into marriage and a day pass which also ended in a lifetime commitment.
At Wimbledon 2013, there are seismic shocks on the courts and love in the air. Serena Williams started it with some ill-timed comments about the love life of Maria Sharapova. “There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest,” Williams told Rolling Stone magazine, without naming the Russian.
“She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
The guy with the black heart was Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian top-30 player who is now Sharapova’s boyfriend but was previously romantically linked with Williams.
Sharapova hit back with an icy putdown delivered with the venom usually reserved to fuel one of her howitzer forehands.
“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” said Sharapova. Williams has reportedly been in a romance with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
The spat did little for the Wimbledon campaigns of either Williams — who was knocked out in the fourth round by Sabine Lisicki — or Sharapova — who lost to Michelle Larcher De Brito.
Caught in the middle, Dimitrov, voted by fans as one of the tour’s sexiest men, fared little better, losing in the second round to Slovenian journeyman Grega Zemlja.
“You guys tell me what kind of heart I have,”said Dimitrov, in response to Williams’s jibe. “I am here to talk about the slippery courts, how many injuries we had, pull-outs. I don’t think we should be talking about that. I think that’s in the past and that’s getting old.”
He was happy, however, to have the glamourous Sharapova looking on and insisted that her presence did not increase the pressure on him. “I feel even more pumped and happy that she’s there for me. I think that’s what counts the most.”
Game, set and match
Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, the 27-year-old World No 116, who caused one of the great Wimbledon sensations by knocking out seven-time champion Roger Federer in the second round, already had happy memories of the All England Club.
Three years ago, he met his future wife, Anfisa Bulgakova, at the tournament.
“At Wimbledon in 2010 my mother called me and said, ‘I have a great girl and she wants to come to Wimbledon to watch if you can get her a ticket’. So I got Anfisa a ticket and she called me to say, ‘I’m at Wimbledon and would like to meet you’,” Stakhovsky told BBC.
Mrs Stakhovsky added: “We just chatted for 10 minutes. That was it but we were both feeling there should be something and we were messaging each other afterwards.
“Our first date was in Paris in November 2010 and Sergiy proposed the following January and we got married that September. He’s such a gentleman, he’s very romantic and at the same time very smart and logical. He’s unbelievable.”
Stakhovsky’s Wimbledon campaign was ended in the third round by Austria’s Jurgen Melzer who married Czech player Iveta Benesova last summer, just a year after they won the mixed doubles title in London.
“You have to watch out what you say,” said 32-year-old Melzer when asked what drawbacks presented themselves when teaming up on court with your wife.
“When we played here the first time we hadn’t been dating and we hadn’t been involved. We were friends. That’s when we won.” For Melzer, good communication is the key to success. “In life and in marriage and on the court,” he said.
They too met at SW19