Wozniacki and McIlroy's love match
NEW YORK -- You have to wonder about the long-term prospects of No. 1-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki's relationship with golfer Rory McIlroy when she's getting advice on love from Serena Williams.
Yes, that's the same Serena who is rumored to have had flings with everyone from former football players LaVar Arrington and Keyshawn Johnson to movie director Brett Ratner and actor Jackie Long, not to mention a long-term love affair with rapper Common. None of which lasted, mind you.
"I told her, never look through the guy's phone,'' Williams said of her heart-to-heart with Wozniacki in the locker room at the U.S. Open. "That is the worst thing you can do. I told her most relationships end.
"It wasn't very good advice.''
"I think I should not listen to her or Venus [Williams],'' Wozniacki said. "She was not better."
Wozniacki and McIlroy, the reigning U.S. Open golf champion, have had to put their romance on hold for at least a week, anyway. Schedules have gotten in the way of their budding relationship, as Wozniacki, 21, is in New York for the year's fourth major while McIlroy, 22, is in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, playing in the Omega European Masters tournament. But McIlroy said he's watching Wozniacki's matches from afar, and he said he believes the two could help each other's athletic careers.
And that's the question the Danish tennis star and the Northern Ireland golfer have raised with this two-month relationship, which began in Europe when they met at a boxing match in July and bloomed in the U.S. when he attended some of her tournaments in August. Could this very public relationship, which the world has been following since their initial back and forth on Twitter, not only last, but enhance the careers of two of the top athletes in the world?
That depends on who you ask.
"It's mainly like any other relationship,'' said former shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who married soccer star Mia Hamm in 2003. "I looked at ourselves as no different than anybody else, if you had two people who have careers that they were focused on, and a relationship in between there."
Garciaparra and Hamm aren't the only successful long-term sports couple. Basketball players Shelden Williams and Candace Parker are married. Three-time Grand Slam singles champion Maria Sharapova is engaged to New Jersey Nets guard Sasha Vujacic.
Some athletes prefer to date other athletes, who can appreciate the stresses and the mindset that come with professional sports careers.
"Just understanding what the life is like, understanding what athletics means to your life," Garciaparra said.
Sometimes, that's not enough. Former No. 1 tennis player Ana Ivanovic's relationship with golfer Adam Scott fizzled, although at a U.S. Open match earlier this week, Scott was a guest in Ivanovic's player's box.
It helped Chris Evert for a while in the early 1970s, when she was the darling of women's tennis and in love with Jimmy Connors. Evert was a teenager and Connors was barely in his 20s when they formed the ultimate tennis couple. They were engaged to be married in 1974, and Evert was playing some of the best tennis of her career. She won Wimbledon and the French Open in 1974.
"The advantage I had was I got to practice with Jimmy Connors, and that improved my game," Evert said. "We were in the sport, we were in tennis, and we got to work out together and practice. And he would watch my matches, and so I think that there's a little bit of a difference [between that relationship and a tennis-golf relationship]."
McIlroy can't help Wozniacki's game, but maybe they can soothe each other's psyches. Wozniacki has bristled at criticism that she hasn't validated her 46 weeks in the No. 1 spot with a Grand Slam title. McIlroy dominated the 2011 U.S. Open, recording the lowest 72-hole score in that event's history to claim his first major victory, but is still working his way toward No. 1 in the men's golf rankings.
"I think we definitely spur each other on,'' McIlroy told reporters in Switzerland. "She's No. 1 in the world and I've got a major, and we sort of both want what each other have. It's a big goal of mine. I want to become the best player in the world."
Careful with that playful competitiveness, McIlroy. Experts warn it eventually can sour a relationship.
"Obviously, it can get competitive, especially if one loses their platform of success," said Diana Kirschner, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of "Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love" and "Love in 90 Days." "If one becomes much more successful, [and] shoots to the top in terms of their ability or their fame or the amount of money they're being given, and the other one doesn't, it really can cause a lot of tension, and actually break the couple up because these are very high achieving people. Often their identities are wrapped up in their public performance."
Whatever strain develops would no doubt be played out in public. Wozniacki and McIlroy invited the public to follow their relationship by engaging each other on Twitter and by appearing together in Cincinnati and New Haven, where she played tournaments last month.
"After the romance is over and reality sets in, and then you have that added pressure of being in the public eye, it just makes it harder for the relationship to survive," Evert said.
Wozniacki said she is not worried about any of that. Nor does she worry that dating McIlroy will have a negative impact on her game. He was there when she lost her opening match in Cincinnati and he was there when she won four consecutive matches to claim the title at New Haven.
"Well, tennis is my first priority and I'm focused on the tennis when I'm on court, that's for sure," she said after beating Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-0 Thursday night. "What I do off the court, I know that I'm a public person, so a lot of things will be seen by the public. But you know, I don't really think about it. I think we have our limits and we know where they are. So as long as we both keep the feet on the ground and we both have our careers, which are important to us, I think it's working well."
Evert thought the same way, once upon a time. Asked if she smiles or cringes when she thinks of Wozniacki and McIlroy, she said, "I kind of knowingly smile. Because I've been there. I've been there. It's a lot of fun.
"It's very exciting, but they're both still very young, and that was Jimmy and I."