LONDON, England, July 24 – Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova are among a host of top tennis stars who have snubbed the Athletes’ Village in a bid to avoid the travel headaches that have plagued the build-up to the Olympics.
While the majority of their compatriots competing at the Games will be staying at the village at the Olympic site in Stratford, east London, Federer, Sharapova and many of their peers will be on the other side of the capital in plush rented accommodation within walking distance of Wimbledon, which is staging the nine-day tennis event.
Several athletes arriving in London for the Games have already complained about traffic problems, while some of the staff hired to drive competitors around the city have got lost en route to their destinations.
India’s Somdev Devvarman, given a wildcard into the men’s singles, is one of the few to use the village and he has already fallen foul of the lengthy journey to and from Wimbledon.
“Here’s Milos passed out during the 2 hour ride back from the All England Club to the Village. Yes I said 2 hours!” Devvarman tweeted with an attached picture of a sleepy-looking Milos Raonic of Canada.
The prospect of being stuck on a gridlocked coach for up to two hours just to get from the Village to the All England Club has convinced many of the game’s stars to stick to their regular Wimbledon routine.
For Federer, back at Wimbledon just three weeks after winning the grasscourt Grand Slam for a record-equalling seventh time, that means near the venue in the leafy south-west London suburb.
World number one Federer, bidding to add a singles’ gold medal to his glittering CV, said: “No village for me. I’ve done it twice. I’ve had the Olympic experience now in the past. I just thought it’s impossible for London.
“I’ve almost got to do now what I do best, do my routine really, not change because it is the Olympics.
“So I will do the same here for this one and rent the same house and do the same routine again and hopefully be successful.”
Unlike Federer, reigning French Open champion Maria Sharapova will be competing in her first Games and the Russian is relishing the chance to carry her country’s flag at Friday’s opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium.
But even for Sharapova, the chance to beat the travel blues makes staying the Athletes’ Village a non-starter.
“Yes, it’s too far to be in the Athletes’ Village.” she said. “It’s unfortunately so far, as it’s like over an hour’s drive. I wish I could, but that would be too much.”
Britain’s Andy Murray, beaten by Federer in the Wimbledon final, lives a short drive from the All England Club in Cobham, Surrey and he will return to his home comforts in time for the start of the tennis event after sampling life in the village for two nights.
“I’m going to stay at the Olympic Village for a couple of nights and then, once the tennis starts, I’m going to go back to my home,” Murray said.
“It’s only 15 minutes away from Wimbledon and I think it’s better with my preparation.”
Novak Djokovic, the world number two and reigning Australian and US Open champion, will stay in a house near Wimbledon with compatriots Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic.
“It would be nice to stay in the Olympic Village with the other athletes but I think we will have to settle for Wimbledon village instead,” Tipsarevic said.
“It’s just because Wimbledon is a long way from the main Olympics site and traffic in London is not great at the best of times – I can only imagine what it will be like when the Olympics begin.”