ON Tuesday afternoon, in Eastbourne, England, Rory McIlroy watched as girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki laboured to a three-set defeat in the first round of the Aegon International.
One day San Francisco, the next the Eastbourne: the world of this 23 year-old, apparently strapped permanently to an aeroplane, is not without its contrasts.
Quietly, McIlroy and Wozniacki have been elevated to the realm of the power couple. But their recent results encourage a thought that the pair are not exactly aiding each other’s professional progress.
McIlroy has missed four cuts in his past five tournaments and, according to one observer,
wafted at his final putt in the US Open with an absent-mindedness to suggest he could not wait to board the latest departure of ‘Wozilroy Airlines’ fast enough.
His belle, meanwhile, has lost four of her past six matches and is without a WTA title in 10 months. From entering this season’s Australian Open as the world No.1, Wozniacki enters Wimbledon next Monday scraping a place in the top 10.
In the manacling of golf and tennis prodigies, from Sergio Garcia and Martina Hingis to Adam Scott and Ana Ivanovic, none has lasted. Ivanovic, a former French Open champion now ranked 14th in the world, even admitted her game had stalled due to the relationship. Sport at this rarefied plane can be a uniquely egocentric enterprise.
In the limiting of all personal outlet, the tennis tour is every bit as brutal as golf’s. While exotic and beguilingly glamorous, it is at heart a transcontinental circus.
The perpetual travelling can breed a sense of solitude. An equilibrium can be elusive, as McIlroy is discovering. In paring down his schedule to a bare minimum outside the majors, he avoids the loneliness of life on the road but finds the consistency of his golf ebbing away.
By his own acknowledgment, McIlroy has taken his “eye off the ball” this summer, conscious that a golfer’s longevity affords him another two decades of pursuing major trophies.
Wozniacki, with a tennis player’s truncated shelf life, does not enjoy that luxury.