The offseason means Lars Eller of the Capitals means playing a lot of tennis
Lars Eller is a huge tennis fan. The 32-year-old Washington Capitals center tries to watch every Grand Slam tennis tournament on TV, and during his time playing for the Montreal Canadiens, Eller and his wife, Julie, has attended the ATP Tour event that the city hosts on several occasions. Eller also played tennis growing up in Denmark and still finds himself on the pitch for games during the offseason.
“I usually play maybe once a week or so here in the offseason,” Eller said on Wednesday at the Citi Open tennis tournament ahead. Rafael Nadalsecond round match against Jack sock. “It’s just something, a sport that I really love to play and watch.” (Disclosure: City paper owner Marc Ein manages the Citi Open.)
In 2007, the St. Louis Blues selected Eller 13th overall in the NHL Draft, making him one of the best Danish-born players to ever come to the NHL. Eller was traded to the Canadiens in 2010, where he spent six seasons before joining the Capitals in 2016. Two years later, Eller scored the decisive goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to help the Caps to win their first Stanley Cup title, and he became a hero in his homeland.
Throughout his career in the NHL, Eller has accumulated a number of tennis partners. He’s not the only Capitals player who enjoys playing the sport.
“The Swedes, like [Carl] Hagelin and [Nicklas] Backstrom, also played a bit with [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and Brenden Dillon a lot this summer, ”Eller said when asked to name his tennis teammates. “When I was in Montreal, I played with Tomas Plekanec, the Czech, and he was a great player. He was a very good tennis player. So yes, there are a lot of hockey players out there who love to play tennis.
Eller was hesitant to say who the team’s best tennis player is but gave the former Caps winger Ilya Kovalchuk a shout. “He’s probably the best player we’ve had that I’ve seen play for sure,” said Eller. “He was awesome, a really good tennis player. “
While Eller plays tennis primarily for fun, he also uses it as conditioning at the start of his summer training.
“Once you get into… the second and third phase or the off-season training month, you have to do other things,” he said. “But it’s a great addition for me.”
On Wednesday, Eller watched Nadal beat Sock in a three-set thriller in the lower half behind the baseline. After the game, Eller presented Nadal with a personalized Washington Capitals jersey with Nadal’s name and number 21 on the back. It was the first time that Eller, who called the 2008 Wimbledon final where Nadal beat Roger Federer in five sets “one of the best sports games of all time,” saw Nadal compete in person. Nadal, 35, lost to South Africa Lloyd harris in the third round of the Citi Open on Thursday night in his second game only since Roland Garros.
“I’ve always loved watching Federer. I think he’s just amazing on so many levels. I admire him as a person [and] as an athlete. But the same with Nadal, ”Eller said ahead of Wednesday’s game. “I really admire their humble personalities and the fact that they’ve been able to stay on top of their sport for so many years, you know, decades. I think that’s the most awesome thing, to make them play, [Novak] Djokovic, all three at the same time. I think they are arguably the three best players of all time, so seeing them compete against each other at every Grand Slam is special.