At any given time when 30 or more men, in prime of life, are locked in a room, there is bound to be a testosterone overload.
American tennis player John Isner, one of the tallest men on the tour at 6’9”, confirms that.
“It’s a good mix of people,” says the 26-year-old of the atmosphere in the men’s locker room. “Lot of guys are shooting the c**p (American slang for small talk). We chat a lot, and have a good time. Obviously when someone is preparing for the match they have to be focused on that, but otherwise there are guys coming in and out of practice, so there are lots of high-fives and ‘What’s ups!’ It’s generally a happy mood.”Plus there are always the jokers in the pack that keep everyone hooked. Novak Djokovic isn’t just currently the best tennis player in the world, but is also the entertainer-in-chief in the locker room.
“The funniest thing I’ve seen is Djokovic doing some impersonations — he’s good at that — of (Rafael) Nadal and some other players. It was an off-camera thing; you had to be there to watch it.”
Isner though prefers to play the spectator. The most adventurous prank he has played is “putting some IcyHot (ointment for pain relief) in my coach’s underwear last year, when he was taking a shower.”
While the atmosphere is mostly genial, the fact that you are sharing the same space with your professional rivals can get difficult.
“It does,” says Isner. “It can get very difficult. You warm up together, 30 minutes before the match you are showering next to the guy you are getting ready to play against. Ten minutes after the match, win or lose, you share the locker room. Not many sports are that dynamic. Though most of the guys are pretty good friends, it definitely gets tricky.”
One can only wonder how uncomfortable it would have been after that marathon match against Nicolas Mahut at last year’s Wimbledon, which went on for 11 hours spread over three days.