Turning Up The Miami Heat
Jean-Julien Rojer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are playing at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the second successive year.
So Andy Murray isn't the only leading tennis player who has an apartment in Miami, who trains in Florida during the off-season, and who supports the Miami Heat basketball team. When Murray is at his second home in the Sunshine State - his first is in Surrey commuter-land - he sometimes trains with Jean-Julien Rojer, and whenever they can they share a box at the basketball.
"Andy and I bother each other quite a lot when we're both in Miami," said Rojer, who was born in Curacao, in the Netherlands Antilles, and has become known as the 'Pirate of the Caribbean' of the ATP World Tour; together, he and Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are 'The Prince and the Pirate'. "I'm a big Heat fan and so is Andy. We go to as many games as we can. We share a box together; Andy, myself and Ross Hutchins [a British doubles player and Murray's close friend, who disclosed this summer that he was in remission from Hodgkin's Lymphoma]." For evidence of Rojer's friendship with Murray, seek out a video of the pair on the red carpet outside the players' party in Indian Wells in the Californian desert, with Rojer teasing the Briton about his clothes.
Rojer, who now represents the Netherlands, moved from Curacao to Miami when he was only 13. "We were a lucky family, we weren't the richest, but neither were we the poorest in the region. We could travel a little. Curacao is close to Miami, so we played under-8, under-10 and under-12 tournaments there. A trainer based in Miami saw potential in me and, at 13, I sat down with my parents and I told them I wanted to play tennis," he has said. "I moved into the trainer's house, I learned English and a little Spanish from being in the city, and I went to school, and then secondary school, all in the United States. At the same time, I was playing tennis."
Rojer did spend a couple of years on the west coast of America - he did two years of a three-year sociology degree at university in Los Angeles, before quitting to play professional tennis. "I want to finish the degree. It would be great having a degree, as not a lot of tennis players have one. Sociology allowed me to understand the world, human behaviour and how things work. Sociology was an easy course in the sense that I could arrive tired from tennis and at the same time concentrate on reading. If it had been maths, and I had been studying late at night and exhausted, I think the numbers would have started to move around," he said.
This is Rojer's second season in partnership with Qureshi; in their first year together, they qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. And Qureshi has said that that he and Rojer are now even more comfortable with each other: "Last year we learned about each other." That undoubtedly helped them in Miami this spring when they won their first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy. Rojer agreed that their communication has improved: "We now communicate a lot better and that helps a lot. Last year we were feeling each other out a little bit; now we can be a little bit more honest with each other, and talk after matches and work things out."