Friday 26 December 2014

It's love-all for Rory and Caroline

The golf champ and tennis star sit down together to reveal how they first met and why they're a perfect match

ARDMORE, PA - JUNE 14:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during Round Two of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 14, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during Round Two of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 14, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki plays a backhand during her Ladies' Singles first round match against Estrella Cabeza Candela of Spain on day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

The Spartan players' restaurant at Eastbourne's Devonshire Park is far removed from their millionaire pads on the promenade at Monaco or in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. But it is the very down-to-earthness of Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy that makes it all feel so right.

This is the superstar sporting pair Piers Morgan has been desperate to get on to his CNN talk show; Hello! magazine's bosses would have an attack of the vapours if they were here now, but sport's big love match are true to a promise made a year ago that they would sit and talk one day, and this is the day.

According to those critical of their relationship, the fact that Wozniacki is ranked only No 9 in the world of women's tennis and McIlroy is No 2 in golf is because they are so smitten with each other. They have taken their collective eye off the ball.

"There are always people that want to talk and make a story," Wozniacki (22) says.

"The thing is when Rory was winning everything last year, I was the lucky charm. He misses a cut and all of a sudden I'm a bad person.

"It has nothing to do with that. I'm so pleased he's here, he's a great support and there are so few people who know exactly how it is to feel and be in the position I am in and have been in. Rory is young, he's been No 1, he's won many tournaments. You don't find many people who can relate to it."

McIlroy, the Northern Irishman who won the 2011 US Open and the US PGA Championship last year, said: "Everyone knows how it feels to be in love and want to make something work. That's where we are."

Asked for their recollection of events and how they met – who said hello to whom – they giggle, they interrupt, they get a little red-faced. I ask how they became attracted to each other. It all goes back to the 2010 US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York, when McIlroy was a guest of the ATP (the governing body of men's tennis) and was introduced to Benito Perez-Barbadillo, the public relations manager for Rafael Nadal, who said the tennis star wanted to meet McIlroy.

Wozniacki, of Denmark, was playing Carly Gullickson of the United States at that night's session. McIlroy says: "I said, I remember her getting to the final last year. I like her, tight black dress, whatever. It was midnight before they started. She won 6-0, 6-1 and it was the first time I saw her in real life. My caddie will tell you I went on about her for three weeks. I admired her from afar, then I went to Wimbledon ladies' quarter-final day.

"I was invited into the royal box and it was supposed to be her versus Maria (Sharapova) and I thought, 'Oh perfect'. And she wasn't playing."

Wozniacki had lost to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the fourth round. "I should have won, I had a break in the third and took Hawk-Eye at deuce and made a mistake and, anyway, I lost," she said.

"We get to Saturday and it's the Wladimir Klitschko/David Haye world heavyweight title fight (in Hamburg, Germany) and, because I know Klitschko and his manager, I had been invited but said I couldn't go because it was the second week of Wimbledon.

"But I had lost, I was at a friend's place by the pool and she said they were going to go to the fight. By 1pm I'm on a flight to Hamburg with no hotel, nothing, and what should I do? I get to the fight a bit late. I'm walking down the stairs and I saw Rory. I knew about him, I follow different sports."

Wozniacki: "He is in the third row staring and I thought he was staring at someone behind me and literally he couldn't stop looking at me (McIlroy pulls his cap down). He has a pretty, dark-haired girl on his left and a friend on the other side. I'm thinking, it's pretty rude when he has his girlfriend with him.

"I said, 'Well, I follow you on Twitter so I can send you a direct message and let you know if we're going to do anything (later). And she said, 'well, take my number if you want' – if I want!

"We said goodbye at the end of the fight and I said I'd send her a text to tell her what we were getting up to. My phone died, so back at my hotel I'm looking for a charger anywhere, I need to text her, I need to text her. I said we were probably going to go out and I said I'm staying in this hotel and why don't you swing by."

There were five people for one taxi, and they couldn't all fit in, so Rory and Caroline went ahead. "We found a table in the corner, ordered a drink and hardly touched it and we talked for four hours and the next thing I know a guy taps me on the shoulder and I said, 'What's up?' and we realised it was light outside and we had no idea.

Irish Independent

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