Five athletes who don't like the sport that they play

Luke Bradshaw
Sports Writer
Mark Williams (Credit: Getty Images)

Despite winning the World Championships on three occasions, Mark Williams ‘hates’ snooker.

The Welshman turned professional in 1992, has enjoyed spells as the best player in the game and is ranked number two in the world, but is currently ‘enjoying golf more’.

Speaking after sailing through the first round of the UK Snooker Championship in York, it’s not the first time Williams has appeared disenchanted with the sport. In 2017, a year before he won his third title, he openly talked about giving up the game but went on to become world champion in 2018.

This year hasn’t gone as well, with the 44-year-old failing to win a single ranking event this season.

But Williams isn’t alone when in disliking the game he’s great at, it’s also true when it comes to some of the world’s best athletes.

Serena Williams, tennis

Serena Williams (Credit: Getty Images)

In an interview with TennisNow.com, the greatest female tennis player of all time said: "I mean, I don't love tennis today, but I'm here, and I can't live without it ... so I'm still here and I don't want to go anywhere any time soon.”

"It's not that I've fallen out of love; I've actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete. I don't like working out; I don't like anything that has to do with working physically."

It hasn’t stopped her winning 23 Grand slam singles titles and dominating the sport for the bulk of the 21st century.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, football

Benoit Assou-Ekotto for Cameroon (Credit: Getty Images)

It’s difficult to imagine a footballer who cared less about football than Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The left-back played professionally for 14 years and managed 24 caps for Cameroon in the process, yet the game that so many love was nothing more than an occupation to him.

In one memorable interview, he explained: “Why did I come here? For a job. A career is only 10, 15 years. It's only a job. Yes, it's a good, good job and I don't say that I hate football but it's not my passion.

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“I arrive in the morning at the training ground at 10.30 and I start to be professional. I finish at one o'clock and I don't play football afterwards. When I am at work, I do my job 100%.

“But after, I am like a tourist in London. I have my Oyster card and I take the tube. I eat.”

Andre Agassi, tennis

Andrea Agassi (Credit: Getty Images)

“I play tennis for a living though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, always have.”  

The words of eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi. The American wrote about hating the sport in his autobiography Open, although the fact is contradicted somewhat by the amount if time he stayed in the sport beyond actually needing to.

As an exceptional young talent, Agassi was forced to play in matches for money by his father while growing up in Las Vegas. As well as saying he hated the sport, he also said: “In tennis you're on an island. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement.”

Chris Kluwe, American football

Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings (Credit: Getty Images)

The former punter spent eights years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings (as well as some very short stints at the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks) and was successful during his time in Minneapolis, but took no real active interest in the sport away other than his employment.

Having fallen into American football while at high school when his team needed a kicker (he continued to play at UCLA before being drafted), Kluwe was far more interested in playing in his band, science-fiction writing, gaming or World of Warcraft. He was cut from the Vikings not long after publicly supporting gay marriage.

Gary Lockett, boxing

Gary Lockett (left) (Credit: Getty Images)

Lockett was a Welsh middleweight boxer who finished with a career of 30 wins from 32 bouts. His biggest moment came when he fought Kelly Pavlik for the WBC and WBO middleweight title in 2008, eventually losing by TKO in the third round. It proved to be his last fight and he retired from the sport soon after.

In an interview with the BBC, the boxer discussed his apathy for the sport: "I've never been a lover of boxing and I don't think I'll get motivated to train for non-title bouts. On Saturday nights you won't find me travelling the length and breadth of Britain watching boxing shows.

"I'm fortunate enough to have no financial worries as I invested all the money I earned from boxing into property. I'm not sure boxing has a place.”

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