WIMBLEDON, England – For most of his regular life, Alex Ovechkin is an internationally recognized hockey player, the star of the Washington Capitals. For this week, he is a run-of-the-mill tennis fan, one who has to fritter away the hours waiting through rain delays and long matches to root for his girlfriend, Maria Kirilenko, in the Olympic tennis tournament at Wimbledon.
“It used to be, I play hockey and my family watch me and they explain to me how they’re nervous,” Ovechkin said Tuesday after he watched Kirilenko take a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Heather Watson of Great Britain. “I say, ‘Why are you nervous? It’s simple.’ Right now, I [am] just watching her play, and I get nervous, because you think, ‘Jesus Christ. Come on. Do something better.’”
Ovechkin is still at the center of the Capitals’ universe, and when he returns to Washington next month – he said he expected to take part in some of the NHL’s labor negotiations – he will be dealing with an altered landscape. First, his longtime running mate, winger Alexander Semin, signed a free agent contract with Carolina that means Ovechkin will play without his countryman for the first time in his career.
“It was a fun time to play with him,” Ovechkin said. “But how I said before: It’s a business. It’s hockey. … Right now, it’s time to move on. We’re not going to cry. We’re not going to be sad. Of course I’m sad I lost my boy and a great teammate for me, and a great player. But who knows what in the future, what’s going to happen?”
The Capitals also have a new coach in former star Adam Oates, a change Ovechkin smiled broadly about as he sat in the stands of a Wimbledon side court Tuesday evening. In the Caps’ one playoff run under former coach Dale Hunter, Ovechkin found himself sitting for long stretches, particularly in the third period. Asked whether that was the most frustrating time of his career, Ovechkin said, “Of course.” He has only spoken briefly with Oates on the phone, but he said he is looking forward to playing for him.
“I think it’s good for us right now, because I think we are more [an] offensive team than [a]defensive team,” he said. “For me, I don’t want to say [anything] bad, but Dale [is a] great person, great coach, but maybe different people are pretty excited to have him. But I just do my job and just play what he tell me to play.”
Being in London during the Olympics has further focused Ovechkin on the next Olympics, to be held in Sochi, Russia. Though the NHL hasn’t committed to allowing its players to return to the Olympics – which requires a break in its schedule – Ovechkin reiterated that he doesn’t care. He’s going anyway.
“All the world’s talking about it,” Ovechkin said. “… Nothing can stop my mind, and different minds – Russian players. It’s no doubt. You can see how it was a couple of years ago in Vancouver. The Canadians, how they played in front of home crowds. It’s unbelievable. It’s the best.”
More from Post Sports