Back to the grind for single-minded Nielsen
LONDON (Reuters) - Frederik Nielsen would appear to be living the dream.
A Wimbledon doubles champion in July, a member of Denmark's Olympic team a few weeks later and now ending the year playing in front of 17,000 spectators at London's O2 Arena in the ATP World Tour Finals with British partner Jonathan Marray.
Yet after a thrilling victory over Indian duo Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in their opening group match on Tuesday, Nielsen said he was ready to give up the five-star lifestyle and return to the grind as a journeyman singles player.
Nielsen, 29, has earned $277,000 this year, almost exclusively from doubles, and will pocket another sizeable cheque to share with Marray after their shock Wimbledon triumph as wildcards earned them a place at the lucrative year-ender.
Clearly an outstanding double-act, Nielsen and Marray, 11th in the season-ending ATP Race as a pair, would qualify for the Masters Series events next year where the big bucks are made but Denmark's only Wimbledon champion has other plans.
His priority is to improve his singles ranking of 362 - a mission that will take him to the tennis backwaters where spectators can often be counted on the fingers of two hands.
Explaining a decision that has left Marray advertising his services, Nielsen, who warmed up for London playing Italian domestic league tennis, said he loved tennis more than money.
"The reason why I play tennis is because I love it," Nielsen, whose grandfather Kurt reached two Wimbledon singles finals in the 1950s, told reporters.
"I'm not a singles player or a doubles player. I'm not prepared to sacrifice one thing for the other.
"If I changed my philosophy and my outlook on life in order to play doubles, then it wouldn't make me happy. If I skipped singles now, it would be for the sake of results and money and that kind of stuff.
"That's never going to motivate me. I don't care if I have to play tennis, singles in a lower‑ranked tournament than if it was doubles. Being a doubles player, it's fun, but it's not the reason why I play tennis."
He was clearly enjoying being in the spotlight as he and Marray saved match points to win an entertaining tussle 6-4 6-7 12-10 against Bhupathi and Bopanna on Tuesday.
"This is one of the biggest showcases we have for ATP tennis. This is probably the most exclusive tennis tournament there is in the world.
"I certainly didn't believe I would ever take part on the other side of the stands. It's a massive experience. It's indescribable how cool it is to be a part of as a player.
"We're trying to make the most of every minute. I'm considering not sleeping just to get it all in."
Nielsen is clearly determined to savor the high life before returning to relative obscurity, even if his Wimbledon exploits have raised his profile in Denmark.
"I have a lot of funny requests and stuff. All of a sudden people are asking me to be in TV shows and write books and stuff like that. It's a bit strange, to be honest," he said.
"But when the year is done, I'm pretty sure it's going to be back to normal again. When I'm playing my singles tournament that nobody gives a rat's ass about, I'm sure it's going to be back to reality."
As for Marray, his priority, once the Tour Finals are over, is to find a new partner for next year.
"I'm not really set with anyone for next year. Still on the lookout for a regular partner," Marray, who even posted a request on the ATP's players' website, told reporters.
"It's not bearing fruit as of yet. We'll see how the next few weeks go. If I do well here, what's the word? I'll be attractive to anyone else."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)