The pandemic has affected tennis players around the world. Players who are used to living out of suitcases and staying in different places every few weeks have been adjusting to the new normal. Amidst tournament cancellations, ranking freezes, and reduced prize money, tennis players are looking for ways to take care of their overall well-being. One way that several high-profile tennis stars have dealt with this added time is through taking their love of poker to the online realm.
This is not surprising as the popular game has become even more commonplace, with a growing online base that has only continued to expand during the pandemic. The game’s several digital adaptations provide a unique opportunity to play poker with friends online. Thanks to online poker rooms and even video conferencing tools like Zoom, poker games and tournaments have become very accessible. And in line with this, here are a few tennis players who have become online poker stars.
Patrik Antonius set off to become a professional tennis player in his teenage years, but a back injury took all traditional sports out of the question. He started playing poker soon after that and has been playing ever since. Despite playing a mix of online and live poker tournaments, he mentions he feels a big disadvantage during online tournaments as people can use different kinds of software to gain an edge. Despite this, he has been competing exclusively online since May 2020 and has a streak of wins from WSOP Online 2020 and a WPT Online Championship, among others.
Rafael Nadal is a tennis legend who has won 13 French Open titles and currently holds the world’s No. 3 spot. But he loves other sports as well, including football and golf. He also plays competitively in poker, where he won against his childhood soccer idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, in 2014. Despite not having many live poker results, he has continued to practice his online poker skills amidst the pandemic in order to transition to poker once he retires from tennis.
Boris Becker is another living tennis legend. He has won six Grand Slams, two Australian Opens, and one US Open throughout his career. His ambitions in poker weren’t well-known until he became a signed PokerStars ambassador back in November 2007. Since then, he has mostly played in European Poker Tour live events. He then stopped playing poker in 2013 to concentrate on other business ventures, such as a sports equipment company. But in July 2020, Becker picked up the cards again for an online poker tournament, which had the goal of raising COVID-19 public health emergency funds.
It’s no surprise that these players are comfortable with poker, as there are a lot of similarities between the mental skills required for the two games. For instance, both games teach you to make decisions under pressure and how to be patient. Tennis may be a comparatively fast sport, but players still need to build up momentum instead of simply smashing everything that comes their way, much like biding your time and not playing hard in poker. Both poker and tennis also provide valuable lessons on how to handle finances. In poker, playing higher than you can afford and taking too many bets are fast ways of losing money. In tennis, this translates to managing your resources in order to continue training and appearing in matches.
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