2014/11/01

Approach Shots: Getting to Know Tennis Umpire Ali Nili

By Wendy M. Grossman

(June 14, 2014) LONDON – “To be close to professional tennis,” says Ali Nili, in explaining his motivation for working as a tennis umpire. Nili is an Iran-born US citizen and one of the ATP’s cadre of ten full-time umpires. This makes him as much of an elite member of his profession as the players whose matches he oversees: only 25 umpires in the world have, like him, earned the profession’s highest qualification, a gold badge. Ten of them work full-time for the ATP, traveling the tour alongside the players.

Umpiring wasn’t what he set out to do. “I wanted to play. I wasn’t good enough.” He sounds comfortable with that.

“It’s just a fun job in general, especially if you’re a tennis fan.” Nili is speaking shortly after umpiring the semifinal between Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov. It was a match not without incident: down a set and 3-5, Wawrinka crashed his racquet repeatedly on the court and then, apparently dissatisfied with the demolition job, deliberately folded it in half. Nili seems unbothered by that or any suggestion that angry players might be at all scary. “Just because of the fact that I know them, I work with them every week.”

On the other hand… “I would rather deal with any professional player than any junior’s parents. They want their kid to win at any cost, and anybody in their way is an enemy. I realized that early in my career and tried to stay away from it.”

From the sounds of it, umpiring is a more social job than playing: umpires at the top level hardly ever work with anyone they don’t know, and accordingly they have each other as company.

But players do have one advantage. In a long match they can leave the court for bathroom breaks or request medical treatment. Umpires, on the other hand, stay in place throughout, climbing down only when the match ends or, on clay, if someone wants a mark inspected. It’s not surprising, therefore, when Nili says that ,”My only pre-match routine is go to the bathroom.” When he’s working at Wimbledon or one of the other Grand Slams, where the men play five-set matches, he doesn’t drink anything until the end of his last five-set match.

“It’s easier to stay sharp thirsty than when you have to go to the bathroom out there.”

Nili earned his first international certificate in 1998. Like players, umpires start out in the weeds of the game – small, local events or junior matches. As they learn, gain experience, and improve, they move up the ranks through a series of certificates: white, bronze, silver, and, finally, gold. A tournament like Queen’s, with a singles main draw of 56 and a doubles draw of 16, uses six umpires, four from the ATP’s group, the rest contractors.

Nili jokes about preferring women’s matches at the major because they’re only best-of-three sets, but you have to suspect that every umpire would have liked to have been in the chair for the historic 2010 Wimbledon first-round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which went to 70-68 in the fifth and took more than 11 hours over three days to complete.

“Even he” – meaning the umpire in that match, Mohamed Lahyani – “would tell you that it goes a lot faster than the action time.” In general, he says, “The better the match is, the easier it is to keep your level of concentration. You do a tough five-set match which lasts four hours and when you sit up there it feels like a half an hour.” By contrast, “The opposite is also possible. You might do a match, that might never really pick up, you know, and it’s not the most exciting match in the world and it’s one hour and it feels like three hours. The closer the match is, the tougher the match is, the better the tennis is, the easier it is to concentrate. You get into the flow and the match just drives you along.”

Mistakes still do happen, of course. Umpires are taught not to dwell on them. “We just really always think forward. We always just think about the next call. The more you think about what happened the more chance there is that you’ll miss something else because you’re losing concentration.”

Few mistakes have lasting effects like the one in Venus Williams’ second round match at Wimbledon 2004, when the umpire incorrectly awarded an extra point to her opponent, Karolina Sprem, in the second-set tiebreak. No one corrected the error, and Sprem went on to win the match, though Williams did earn – and lose – three set points along the way.

“Usually, at least in men’s tennis, if you call the score wrong for two points in succession one of the players is going to tell you.” Or, if not the players, a line judge. “It’s not something that happens really often.” Modern technology helps: umpires have tablets that connect directly to the scoreboard so when he punches in the score everyone sees it and it feeds through to TV. A wrong score popping up in those circumstances generally gets a reaction in the stadium.

The hardest thing to learn, Nili says, is “to see the ball well”. Most, though not all, of the top rank of umpires play tennis themselves. “And then communication and not taking things personally.”

One surprising thing to learn is that just as the players must change their games in shifting from clay to grass, so must umpires change their procedures.

“It’s kind of like an art to umpire on clay,” Nili says. “It’s very different. You have to have a better feeling for the match. You have to have done a lot of clay-court matches in order to be a good clay-court umpire.” Years of experience on other surfaces doesn’t automatically translate.

“It’s a lot different.” On other surfaces – hard, indoor, grass – whether or not Hawkeye is available, as soon as a point ends the umpire looks at the loser in case he has questions, comments, or breaks a racquet. “On clay you keep staring at the mark so you don’t lose it.” Obviously. Because: if there’s a disagreement you will have to get down and go check it.

Asked to name the stand-out matches he’s umpired, Nili picks first the 2008 match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, which stretched to three tiebreaker sets and took two hours, 35 minutes to finish. “The longest three-set match ever played on hard court,” Nili says, and also, “Every point was really amazing. That’s probably the best tennis I would say, I’ve umpired.” Then he names a match from a few months ago: Federer versus Djokovic at this year’s Indian Wells final – “That was a good match.” He umpires comparatively few women’s matches, but obliges with Serena Williams versus Jelena Jankovic in Rome.

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Approach Shots: Meet Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open

Krasny in Paris

Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open as well as many other tennis tournaments and events.

 

INDIAN WELLS, California – For those attending and watching BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the voice you’ll hear introducing the players and conducting on-court interviews on Stadium 1 will be that of jack of all entertainment media trades – Andrew Krasny. Krasny has done everything in the field of entertainment media, from radio to television, from producer to host.

Krasny is the voice of many tennis tournaments which include the Sony Open in Miami, Cincinnati and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston to name a few.  With all of his work in tennis some have dubbed him “the voice of tennis.”

“My first job in Hollywood was answering fan mail for comedienne Joan Rivers.”

How did he get the job? “I grew up in Los Angeles and my friend’s father was the Executive Producer of the Tonight Show and he introduced me to Joan and her family and we became friends and then while I was in college my first job was to work on her show when she was at Fox. Hopefully no one is doing the math that really shows how old I am.

“That was my first job and then I went into producing talk shows, became by choice an audience warm-up guy – where I got my formal training to be in front of crowds and then I continued to produce shows and got a job hosting a dating show in the USA Network called Crush. Which was a TV where if a friend had a crush on you and they were embarrassed to tell you, we told you your friend had a crush on you and then you had to decide which one of these three people in my life has the crush on me.

“And then I produced for Martin Short, Joan Rivers, Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh and then I was at a tennis tournament one day at UCLA. I can’t tell you what year it was but I was producing a radio show for Joan Rivers. I noticed that an older gentlemen was on the court and I was wondering where the energy was, and a friend of mine was working for the tournament at the time, I said to him, ‘do you think there is a need for an emcee and a host?’

“I met Bob Kramer and the next year Bob Kramer let me volunteer on court two and I was such a fan of tennis that to volunteer, to get free clothes, to be able to stand near Agassi, Sampras, Safin – and Joan Rivers gave me the week off every year. So for two or three years I volunteered, that led me to being moved to Stadium 1. And from Stadium 1 at UCLA I got recommended to do the women’s event in Carson. From Carson came the Women’s Championships, from the Championships became Indian Wells, From Indian Wells became Miami, from Miami became Stanford, Stanford became Cincinnati, Amelia Island, San Diego and next thing you know to make a long story short in 2009 I was asked to be part of the team at the US Open. This now I would say has become 60 percent of my livelihood and 60 percent of my career is becoming an emcee and announcer around the world for tennis.

“I’m realistic to the energy and expertise that I bring to the fan experience at a tennis tournament,” when he talked about further goals in tennis. “Everyone always asks me ‘do you want to be on TV more?’ and I go back and forth with that. I’m flattered and honored that many events use my post and pre-match interviews for television and it’s fun to be recognized when I’m out and about by people saying ‘you’re the guy who hands out trophies at tennis tournaments’ or ‘I saw you on ESPN’ or this or that.

“As far as tennis goes, I’m perfectly content doing what I do, and my other television career being a correspondent and a host on a few television shows – working with Marie Osmond currently, that I am pursuing my avenues of hosting and being more on television in that aspect, but as far as tennis goes, I felt I have won the lottery and I am not screwing with it for one single moment.”

So which players give the best interviews? “First of all,” Krasny said, “I’m appreciative and grateful for every player has opened their heart out to me and has said many things to me over the past few years that have made my job the greatest job in the whole wide world.

“I will say by far there is not a better ambassador, more articulate ambassador to the game than Roger Federer. Roger has a great respect for the job that I do, and obviously I am a huge fan of his and love his work.

“No one gives me a better interview than Roger Federer. But that being said I’m grateful for the amazing things Rafa (Nadal) has said over the years, Novak Djokovic, it’s an incredible opportunity to get to know them better and understand and respect them.

“On the women’s side…. the first player who ever said to me ‘I love what you do and you are the first person who has done it the way you do’ goes back to Mary Pierce.

“First person who saw him on TV to know that a dream came true for Krasny in terms of finally being on air for tennis, was Lindsay Davenport who is a good friend. Davenport who will inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 12, was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Hall of fame by Krasny this past summer.

So with all of the very unique names in tennis, do any of them give him any problems in terms of pronunciation? “Some of women’s names tend to be harder than the men’s,” Krasny said.

“In terms of finding the correct way to say a player’s name, he goes straight to the player.

“Names are not so much a problem for me, I need to make sure I do my homework  and know my facts is more important to me than pronunciation names, because that’s a given.”

Krasny does admit that he makes a rare mistake or two. “Saying Fed Cup instead of Davis Cup in front of Tim Henman and he laughed. (I) said Belgian instead of Belgrade, Serbia in front of Novak Djokovic once and he stopped during warm-up to hit me with a tennis ball.”

At the Sony Open, Krasny incorrectly read a scoreboard and said that Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova were playing doubles together and Serena Williams sent him a text message to make fun of him.

The native Californian who also teaches on-air hosting and public speaking, tells his students, “you are never judged for a mistake you make, it’s how fast you can bounce back and get out of it.”

Tennis players make mistakes, he points out and so do announcers. “I hit a ball out, we make mistakes but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

I asked Krasny about what would people be surprised about him behind the scenes.

“I’m a diva when it comes to traveling. I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Once I’m there, I’m OK. But I love to make sure I have a nice hotel, I love to make sure I have transportation.”

“We are all on a mission to make sure that the fan experience is just unmatched and that I feel that I’ve been on the forefront of being part of a team that has really changed the sport in the last 10 years. When I started here at Indian Wells 9 years ago we had no videoboards, we had me on court from 11 in the morning to two in the morning with my iPod and look where we’ve gone. We’ve got a multi-billion dollar facility, we’ve got a new expansion with Stadium 2. Tennis is bigger and stronger than it’s ever been before and I’m so proud to be part of it. Behind the scenes we are just trying to put together the best show possible.”

Follow Andrew Krasny on twitter @AndrewHKrasny.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

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Approach Shots – Judy Murray Q & A Part One

 

JudyMurray

(September 17, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – During the US Open, Great Britain’s Fed Cup Captain Judy Murray, mother of ATP players Andy Murray and Jamie Murray sat down to do an interview with Tennis Panorama News.

In part one of our Q & A, the former top Scottish women’s tennis player spoke about her introduction to tennis and coaching, Fed Cup, women coaches and those women coming up the ranks of British tennis.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How did you get involved in tennis?

Judy Murray: I started playing tennis when I was about 10. Back in those days, when racquets were wooden and balls were heavy, the courts were all just one size. It was actually quite tough to start tennis younger than that unless you were quite big because the equipment was heavy.

My Mom and Dad both played, they played for the county, played a lot down at the local club. When I was big enough, I started to join in. I just learned from playing with my parents.

 

KP: With your sons, did they naturally want to play because you played?

JM: Probably, we lived about 300 meters from the tennis courts and when they were very small, we didn’t have much money and I didn’t have a car. I went round to our local club and did some work just as a volunteer and started working with some of the older juniors because I was still playing at a good level. I was the Scottish No. 1 for quite a number of years.

I started working as a volunteer coach when they were very small and some of the kids that I started working with, they started to get quite good and that is when I realized that my initial coaching qualification that I had done when I was a student wasn’t really helping me to help them particularly, so I was just teaching them from a tactical base, which was based on my own playing experience. In my day you didn’t have coaches. You learned how to play the game by playing the game.

I upgraded my qualification when Jamie and Andy were six and seven and then a couple of years later I upgraded it again, because I realized  that a lot of the kids I was working with, were becoming pretty good at the Scottish level and I wanted to help them to be the best that they could be. And I realized that my knowledge of playing the game was all about playing the game, it wasn’t too much about teaching them from a technical base, so I wanted to learn about that. I haven’t up graded my qualification since then. That was the highest level of coaching qualification at the time in Britain. It was a year-long course that was a big thing for me to take on when the boys were quite young, the workshops were all down south.

Also what I remember about that course is that there was a lot of information but not enough about how to actually use the information. And what I have learned in my 20 years or so of coaching is that it doesn’t matter how much information you’ve got if you are not able to communicate it effectively and in the right way with the kids or the adults in front of you, you are not going to get the job done. I think a lot of it comes down to how well you communicate, how much you can enthuse the kids by the way you behave with them. I keep saying kids because I’m so used to working with juniors but now I’ve started working more on the women’s side, but it’s the same thing – you need to have a good rapport. You need to have some fun. You need to get your point across. The other thing is that the better you know your player as a person, the more chance you have at doing a good job with them because understand what makes them tick and what makes them react badly and you’ve started at the best way to get them to do things.

KP: Speaking of working with different players, how challenging is it to be the Fed Cup Captain?

JM: That’s quite a challenge. It’s certainly was a challenge the first year because I had never worked on the women’s side before. I’d worked with juniors and obviously on the men’s side. But working with girls is quite different than working with boys and working with women is quite different from working with girls. Had to learn a lot about that but like throughout my coaching career, I speak to people. I speak to people who have been there and done it before and have lots of experience and then you form your own opinion. You form you own view or philosophy. So I picked a lot of people’s brains. It’s mostly men on the women’s tour, mostly male coaches.

 

KP: Why do you think there are so few female coaches?

JM: I think there is not a great career pathway for female coaches. I think it doesn’t matter whether you work in clubs or whether you are working with better level players. I think it’s you know, that natural thing is for women to get married probably in their twenties and have their kids and then the life of a coach is actually very difficult because if you are coaching in a club for example or a domestic program, your busiest times are going to be after four o’clock and on weekends. So you’re working in the evenings and on weekends, if you’ve got family it’s very difficult. I think if you get to the stage where you want to work with a full-time player then you need to be prepared to be on the road for probably about 30 weeks of the year and that’s very tough as well.

But I think there are one or two things which come into play too. It’s tough to make a living in the game unless you are probably 70, ranked 70 and above. And really anyone ranked below that, it’s tough to have to pay for a coach and a coach’s expenses on the road with you and your own expenses too. Most girls, I think will try to pick a coach who can also work as a sparring partner, and that tends to lend itself more to males who play at a decent level and who can fill that kind of dual role. I think that has something to do with it as well.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having male coaches, but I think we could do with having more females because I do think that female coaches understand the needs and feelings of girls a lot better than guys do and I’ve been saying this for some time now. In our country we need to get more little girls playing tennis and taking up tennis. Tennis has become very attractive now since Wimbledon and since the success of Laura (Robson) and Heather (Watson), very young and exciting prospects and they’re great role models for young girls and for women’s tennis. But once we get little girls into tennis, we need to make sure they are having a lot of fun, doing what they are doing. We need to have a lot more female coaches working with little girls, for exactly the same reasons – to ensure we can retain them in the sport because little girls tend to generally be not as competitive, not as boisterous as boys and can be put off by being in a mixed group or being with a male coach who finds it easier to deal with the boys, because the boys kind of do all the competitive things because they enjoy doing that sort of thing. Building a stronger female coaching workforce in our country is important to us to retain more girls in the game.

KP: Beyond Heather and Laura, who are the women coming up behind then in Great Britain?

JM: Some of the girls have started to do quite well pushing themselves up the rankings. Johanna Konta was at a career-best ranking at 112 before the US Open, I think she’ll drop a little bit. She won a 25 and a 100K back-to-back during the summer which was very good progress for her. So she’s moving in the tight direction. She’s 22 now.

Tara Moore is the same age as Heather Watson and she is very, very talented and she has started to show some good signs of progress. She still needs to work at being able to put good performances in on a consistent basis, and so much of that being able to perform consistently well is down to how emotionally stable you can be for longer periods of time and that always doesn’t come quickly to every player. I think sometimes you have to let them grow into themselves a bit. But she has a huge amount of potential – a very, very skillful player. I think that if she can get herself together I think she can go places over the next couple of years.

And we have Sam(antha) Murray who was playing in the qualies here (US Open). She was at a US college on a scholarship and she has started to push herself up the rankings. Very hard worker, good all-court game, plays good doubles as well, big first serve.

Elena Baltacha had a surgery on her foot in the off season last year, so she’s just playing again full-time, but she has produced good performances as well. It won’t be long before she’s back at her best. Beyond that we are starting to look at the juniors.

We have three very good juniors born in 1998.  Maia Lumsden who won the 14s Orange Bowl in December, Gabby (Gabriella) Taylor who trains in Spain and Jazzy Plews who also trains in Spain. All have been ranked within the top ten at the end of last year in the 14s. So they are all in a good place as well.

But certainly, from my point of view we need to use this opportunity now where tennis is the kind of buzz word among sports in Britain just now. We need to use the opportunity to get more girls playing and to develop a stronger female coaching workforce to retain more of them in the early stages, and then to educate more coaches to be able to do a better job through all the development stages. There’s quite a big job to be done but there’s a huge opportunity at the moment. I will always argue that more better coaches, produce more better players. We need to, in my opinion, to invest in our coaching workforce.

 

In part two of our interview, Murray talks about the women’s tour and some of her proudest moments.

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Chef Pierrick Boyer Serving Taste of Tennis Down Under

Pierrick Boyer

(January 4, 2013) The Australian Open is less than two weeks away and with the anticipation of an upcoming major, Melbourne will play host many pre-tournament soirees. One of the very special events will be the Swisse Taste of Tennis – where the culinary world meets the tennis world to raise funds for charity. This is the sister event to the Taste of Tennis in New York which has kicked off the US Open for the past 13 years.

Some of the tennis players scheduled to participate in the event include Lleyton Hewitt, Max Myrni, Tamira Paszek, Ivan Lendl, Lucia Safarova, Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, Yaraslava Shvedova and Chanelle Scheepers.

Tennis Panorama News caught up with award-winning international pastry chef, Melbourne resident Pierrick Boyer, who will be one of the featured chefs at Taste of Tennis. Boyer has 21 years in the field working with some of the industry’s most internationally renowned chefs.

Boyer has participated in the event four times. “Let’s not forget it’s a charity event and it is one of my favorite events of the year,” Boyer emphasized. “It is fun, there is beautiful food, we talk about sports and there are great people who want to make a difference. I love giving my time for charities, tennis, food and promoting Melbourne.” Boyer is the Head Pastry Chef of Le Petit Gâteau in Melbourne.

“Yes, I am a big (tennis) fan,” Boyer said. “I’ve been to the Indian Wells Tournament, because I lived nearby for five years and, of course, the Australian Open where, luckily, I did some cooking classes for the tennis players. I had the pleasure to meet Aleksandra Wozniak, Arina and Anastasia Rodionova, Gael Monfils and Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, who are fantastic to see on the court. And I used to play years ago,” Boyer said with a smile.

I asked Boyer if he thought there was a similarity between chefs and tennis players, since both have intense training and travel all over the globe. Also many of players seem to be “foodies.”

“I agree,” said Boyer.” We have this in common with some chefs who travel the world and I am lucky I can do this as well, several countries are already scheduled for my desserts making workshops overseas. But the life of a tennis player is hard as well, loads of traveling and that’s a lot of time away from home.”

As far as which tennis players he thinks would be good pastry chefs, he tips Arina Rodionova and Aleksandra Wozniak. “With a bit of practice Arina Rodionova could be because I know she enjoys my pear and almond tart. She had this for her birthday.”

“Aleksandra Wozniak really enjoyed my signature cake, the brownie passion chocolate crunch, at a previous Taste of Tennis event,” Boyer added.

So what inspired him to launch a career in the world of pastry? “At four or five years old, we were living next to a pastry shop at Croissy Sur Seine, near Saint Germain en Laye! And every time my parents were looking for me, I was next door sampling ice creams, cakes, croissants… hahaha.”

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As far as what special dish he will be preparing for Taste of Tennis, he saidIt’s a gluten free, dairy free, very healthy dessert.”

It’s a Coconut Quinoa organic blueberry, raspberry, coconut crumble. Boyer told me to enjoy it with Gold Label 2011 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

The Swisse Taste of Tennis takes place on January 10, 2013 at Grand Hyatt Melbourne from 7pm-10pm with an after party at Silk Road Melbourne. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.swisseactivetasteoftennis.com.au

The event benefits the charities Diabetes Australia-Victoria and National Institute of Integrated Medicine (NIIM), which will receive 100% of the proceeds raised.

Follow @tasteoftennisau for more information and follow Pierrick Boyer on twitter @PierrickBoyer or his website http://www.pierrickboyer.com/.

 

Karen Pestaina is the woman behind Tennis Panorama News

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Chris Evert – A Life Devoted to Tennis

NEW YORK, NY – From hoisting 157 singles trophies during her career on the court, to her current role as tennis commentator for ESPN, tennis hall of famer Chris Evert continues to be very active in the sport.

 

Evert was ranked No. 1 in the world for seven years, won 1309 matches, captured 18 majors titles, and won one slam each year for 13 years in succession.

 

Not resting on past laurels, the Floridian has stayed involved in the sport since she retired in 1989.

 

On Friday night the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum honored the Class of 2012 at the “Legend’s Ball”  at Cipriani – the inductees included Jennifer Capriati, Gustavo Kuerten, Manuel Orantes, Mike Davies, and Randy Snow (posthumously).

 

Also among the award recipients was Chris Evert, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame back in 1995. She was being honored for her dedication to tennis and the positive impact she has made on the sport with the Eugene L. Scott Award. Scott was a US Davis Cup player, tournament director and the founder of Tennis Week magazine. He wrote a column for magazine called “Vantage Point.” Many referred to Scott as “the conscience of the game.”  He died in 2006. Former winner, Billie Jean King presented Evert with her award.

 

“I don’t win any trophies anymore for tennis on the court so it’s nice to receive a service award to put me back into the game and I never really retired,” the 57-year-old Evert said.

 

Past recipients of this award which were selected based on their commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, or has had a significant impact on the tennis world have been John McEnroe (2006); Andre Agassi (2007); Billie Jean King (2008); Arthur Ashe and his wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (2009); Martina Navratilova (2010); and Dick Enberg (2011).

 

“I stopped playing professional tennis but it’s still my life and I still talk about it on ESPN and I write about it in Tennis Magazine, Evert said, “and I have a tennis academy. It’s been a great livelihood for me.”
Evert also reflected on this years’ US Open.

“It’s kind of a sad, bittersweet US Open,” Evert said due to the retirements of Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick.

“It’s not really a happy US Open with those two players gone because they’re very well-liked and they had a lot of presence on the court lot of personality. But that’s how life is. We also saw the emergence of Laura Robson and some other young players. And we’re going to see some young players not. It’s kind of like the changing of the guard right now.”

Speaking of young players, Evert noted the success of a player in her own academy in Boca Raton, Florida. “We had one girl Anna Tatishvili get to the round of 16,” Evert said.  Tatishvili lost to Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2.

“So she had been training with us for like 10 years. We have a lot of young kids and if their goal is to get a scholarship to college or to win their local tournament or to be on their high school team, it’s the same to us as if they’re going to be on tour.”

On top of her academy, her broadcast work for ESPN and her work as publisher and contributor roles for Tennis Magazine, Evert also hosts a charity event each year since she has been retired. Over the years, her philanthropic endeavors have raised more than 20 million dollars to fight against drug abuse and child neglect in Florida.

Her playing days may be long over, but it doesn’t stop her from serving the game that has been her life.

 

Karen Pestaina is the founder and editor of Tennis Panorama News.

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Approach Shots – Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew

 

Mark “Scoop” Malinowski has written about tennis for Tennis Magazine, Tennis Week, Tennis Magazine Australia, Ace Magazine of Great Britain, Florida Tennis, Totally Tennis, Tennis View, www.ATPWorldTour.com, and CBS Sportsline.com. He has done Biofile interviews with Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Pete Sampras, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe, Manuel Santana, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jim Courier, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and hundreds of other WTA and ATP players.

 

“Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew” (CreateSpace October 2011) is his second book. His first book was about boxing, titled “Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle.”

Through interviews with opponents, media, officials, fans, friends and others in the tennis industry, Malinowski paints a very unique portrait of former No. 1 Marcelo Rios. It’s an entertaining work, especially for tennis fans. So many of the quotes about Rios are priceless and prove what an enigma he was as a player and is as a person. “Scoop” answered a few questions about his book.

 

Karen Pestaina: What inspired you to put this book together?

Scoop Malinowski: Marcelo Rios was one of the most inspiring and talented players I ever saw play the sport. He had a stylish, colorful way of playing that many tennis figures admired and appreciated, people like Roger Federer, Mats Wilander, Luke Jensen, Brad Gilbert, among many others, respected Rios and the way he played, when at his best. Rios was also controversial because he was different and had a rebellious attitude. Rios should not be forgotten, he was an important player in tennis history. One worthy of some kind of book or tribute.  

 

KP: What was the most difficult part?

SM: It’s not easy to do a book about a subject and you know the subject won’t cooperate. Rios, as you probably know Karen, was far from cooperative with the media. So the hardest part was figuring out how to go about constructing the book.  I already had a good amount of content and information about Rios from other players from a Tennis Week magazine feature I did about Rios in 2005. Eventually I decided to form the book abstract and freeflowing, unpredictable and unusual – qualities which personified the subject himself. It’s definitely a different kind of read. But so far, the majority of readers of the book were happy with it. Many Rios fans contacted me saying they loved it. Hugo Armando, a former ATP player, who knew Rios from their days at Nick Bollettieri Academy, said it was one of the best tennis books he’s ever read.  

 

KP: Collecting all of the quotes and interviews must have been a big task. How did you approach it?

SM: Rios was a fascinating character and I was curious to learn as much as I could, which made the process almost easy. The original Tennis Week article started out by accident, when Thomas Johansson gave me a great story about Rios, when I asked him a ‘Funny Memory’ while doing a Biofile with him. That story, which is included in the book, sparked me to ask other tennis people for memories and anecdotes about Rios. And it seemed everybody I spoke with had a great story or a strong opinion of Rios. So a few years later, in 2008, when I decided to develop the original article into a book, it was just a lot of fun to listen to tennis world people talk about Rios. Some of the stories blew me away, or made me laugh so hard I had to wipe my eyes. The plan was just to talk to as many players, media, photographers, fans, officials, etc. etc. as possible at the various pro tournaments and events I covered – Miami, Delray Beach, U.S. Open, Newport.  And collect as much info about Rios as possible.

 
KP: Who were the most difficult people to get to comment on Rios?

SM: Well, I didn’t even bother to talk to Rios. I tried and failed about ten times to do a simple Biofile Q&A with him during his career and he refused every time, so there’s no way he would cooperate with a book about him. Which was no problem, because I didn’t expect him to tell me anything anyway. I tried many times to get his former coach Larry Stefanki to talk but he refused. I tried to get Agassi and at first it seemed he would talk. Agassi’s assistant e-mailed me saying Andre would talk but only if Rios personally asked Andre to. Obviously, Team Agassi didn’t realize I was doing it without Rios’ permission. When they learned that, that door closed. I would say everyone else I spoke with for this book, were very very helpful and shared a tremendous amount of information which I am extremely grateful for. Michael Joyce, Jan Michael Gambill, Nick Bollettieri, Bob Brett, Gilad Bloom, Roger Federer, Bud Collins, Alberto Bersategui, Luke Jensen, Donald Dell, Mike Nakajima of Nike, Weller Evans of the ATP were all enormously helpful.

 
KP: Have you sent Rios a copy of this book? Has he read it yet?

SM: I didn’t send a copy to Rios. Though one of the journalists with a Chilean newspaper who I did an interview with about the book, said he would give Rios a copy. That’s all I can tell you. I would think Rios would like this book, some parts will make him laugh, and of course some parts will probably make him cringe a little [smile].

 

KP: What do you personally think about Rios and his career?

SM: At his best, it was like watching a magician. Like Luke Jensen said, Rios played tennis differently than anybody else ever did. He changed the game, he was ahead of his time, his time hasn’t even come yet. It was just a thrill to see him play his best tennis, like the two matches with Agassi in Miami, and the final of the Grand Slam Cup vs. Agassi in Germany. Even Roger Federer said, Rios was one of his favorite players to watch, he said this back in 1999, the first time I interviewed him. But when Rios didn’t feel like playing it was a big disappointment. Because you wondered, what happened? How could he play so poorly when just the other day he was amazing? Despite the inconsistency, he was a great player in his era. Nobody can ever take away the fact that he was #1 in the world. That’s an amazing achievement. Rios was the best player on the planet for six weeks in 1998.

 

KP: Are you working on any other books?

SM: Yes, I’m working on a book about Muhammad Ali. Sort of similar to the Rios book, it’s a collection of memories and anecdotes about Muhammad Ali from outside the public eye and behind the scenes. Things most people don’t know about Muhammad Ali. For example his daughter Laila told me, Ali would take her and her siblings to a fast food restaurant for hamburgers. And then fans would recognize him and before you knew it, hundreds of people would be there, around her dad. Ali would get so wrapped up in being around those fans and people that he would forget he was even there with his kids and then would have to drive back and pick them up. So I’ve collected a lot of memories like that, just need to get a couple years more of those kinds of stories and personal memories.

The book can be purchased at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Marcelo-Rios-Man-Barely-Knew/dp/1461162416

Malinowski also writes for Tennis Prose, and his own site the Biofile. Follow him on twitter at @scoopmalinowski.

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Approach Shots – 45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis

 

Ray Krueger is the deputy managing editor of the New York Times News Service and the author of the book 45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis (Diversion Books – March 1, 2012).

 

The work tells his story, that of a 275-pound teenager who falls in love with the game of tennis and works his way to becoming a top 20 tennis player in the USTA 45-and-over age division despite physical and emotional obstacles.

 

Even if you don’t play tennis, readers will relate to the passion that Krueger has for the game and competing. Krueger brings the reader along  with him on his quest for a national ranking with his engaging stories and his personal struggles. It’s one of those rare books that once you start reading you can’t put it down until you finish.

 

Krueger generously took time out to answer questions about 45-Love.

 

Karen Pestaina: What led you to write this book?
Ray Krueger: A lot of things. My professional life was in turmoil and I knew I was going to take a run at getting the best possible national ranking in the 45-and-over division. Having years of tournaments under my belt, and a lot of stories to tell from those experiences, I decided to write about them. But then as I went back into my childhood and teenage years I realized how tennis had been such powerful force in my life.

 

Q: What was the writing process like? What the most difficult part of it to write?
RK: The most difficult parts to write were the parts where I left out people’s real names. I didn’t want the book to have the feel of getting even with people who I had problems with on the court. When they signed up for a tournament they didn’t sign up to have their misbehavior broadcast for the world to see. Yet I still wanted the stories to be true representations of what really happened. So against some of my journalistic instincts I gave them nicknames, nicknames I have remembered them by through the years.


In terms of the writing process itself, I had lots of downtime as I was at tournaments and in between matches I would be back in my hotel room writing on my laptop. I would even scribble ideas sitting in my car, or even write emails to myself on my phone with ideas or matches I wanted to make sure to mention.

Q: What led you to play tennis in the first place?
RK: The idea of hitting something that didn’t hit back was very appealing. And as a loner I liked the idea of not being dependent on a team and all the social dynamics that seemed to bring.

 

Q: What did you think about the USTA ranking system when it was changed?
RK: I hated it. I think the computer looking at who you beat and who you lose to is the best system. But the USTA wanted to encourage players to play more tournaments so I understand why they did it. I am sort of obsessed with the negative effects of points-per-round so I volunteered to design the points system used in the Eastern Section. I put in a “Best of ….” system to encourage play without turning the rankings into an attendance test.


But no matter what you do the system will never be perfect. I remember a guy I once lost to 6-0, 6-0 at National clay courts was ranked one spot below me because that was the only tournament he played in that year.

 

Q: Since you are a stats person, what do think about the ATP and WTA current ranking systems?
RK: That is a very complicated question.

 

Like I said, I think the computer parsing out the rankings by who players beat and lose to is the best system. But that would make it impossible for fans to see what players need to do to rise and fall. And then you might have a case where a player wins a Grand Slam and doesn’t crack the top 50 because they haven’t beat the top players. Right now the big complaint seems to be that you can be number 1 without winning a Grand Slam (Caroline Wozniacki) but I think other systems would have the same problem. Or different problems. If you devise a point system that so heavily favors the Slams you could have somebody like a Melanie Oudin being in the Top 20 for a year after her run at the U.S. Open.

 

Q: What advice would you give those in their quest for a national ranking?
RK: Have an understanding spouse! But also plan out your tournament schedule a year in advance so you can try to get your work and family life in synch with your tournament schedule (if that is ever possible). The most important thing is to get into the best shape as possible. It is one thing to travel across the country and lose to someone who is clearly better than you. It is another thing to lose because you are not in the best shape you can be.

 

Q: With anyone allowed to enter the US Open National Playoffs to gain a spot in the US Open Qualifying, do you see yourself participating?
RK: I might. I gave up playing USTA Open tournaments a long time ago but this year I might make a comeback.

 

Q: Have you really stopped eating Haagen-Daas?
RK: Yes. It is low-fat sugar-free frozen yogurt for me. But I won’t tell you how much of it I eat.

 

Ray Krueger is the deputy managing editor of the New York Times News Service, the wire service of the New York Times, and has written about tennis and mixed martial arts both for the paper and its website. He is also one of the founding writer/editors of the Times’ tennis blog, Straight Sets. Previously, he wrote for the New York Daily News, the Jersey Journal and Reuters and has also worked for CBS Radio and Sportsticker. He continues to train for his next tennis tournament as he researches his next book project and lives with his wife, a former junior player herself, and two kittens in Manhattan. He hopes to improve on his best national ranking by the time he gets to the 90-and-over age group.

45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis [Kindle Edition] is available on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/ADfW87

 

Bonus – An excerpt from the book:

It started with a phone call from a friend and regular practice partner.
“Ray, you are not going to believe what happened to me. It is the craziest thing I
have seen at a tournament.”
To protect the guilty, I will call him Ken Rosewall.
He told the story of playing in an unsanctioned local tournament. He was winning
the match easily and in the second set his opponent said he was quick serving him.
Rosewall said it was supposed to be server’s pace and if there was a problem they should get the referee.

The referee agreed with Rosewall.
But at a changeover, his opponent grabbed the balls, ran to the service line and
served while Rosewall was still on his chair. He then said it was the same thing Rosewall was doing to him. The referee defaulted him.
He went berserk. He would not stop going after the tournament director and my
friend. Cops were called. Days later, Rosewall said he heard Berserker went to the
tournament director’s house and a restraining order was filed.
A month later I was playing in the semifinal of a local tournament against a guy I
had never heard of.
I didn’t have any problems with his calls, but he was playing very slow. He did
something I had never seen on a court before. He would serve with one ball and if he
missed his first serve he would walk back to the fence to pick up another ball for his
second serve. He would towel off at the back fence where he kept the other ball, and then hit his second serve.
Well, we are supposed to play at server’s pace…
I looked over to the tournament director. He wasn’t there. He had to leave and his
girlfriend was handling the desk.
I decided to stay calm. My opponent didn’t have any weapons, and just ran down
everything. That is my style and I was confident I could outlast him. He seemed to be the brooding sort, not talking before the match, not looking me in the eye.
But as I started winning he finally blew. Screaming, yelling, hitting the balls into the
fence. After every point. Some of the worst behavior I had ever seen. I kept calm. He was self-destructing. But it was uncomfortable and scary. He was directing his anger at me.
“You have nothing,” he was screaming at me. And now he was looking at me straight in the eye.
It was rage trash-talking. He wasn’t saying how he was going to beat me, but saying
how much I sucked. I had never seen that before. He was losing and the more he was
losing the more abusive he became. I just took it, but I was boiling.
The match had gone over an hour before I won the first set. I was more exhausted
from holding myself back from responding to the abuse than I was the match.
Then at a changeover he walked past me, glared at me and with full force kicked my
tennis bag. My anger boiled over.
“You can do all you want out here, but you can’t kick my bag,” I screamed. He didn’t
say a word, just looking at me his eyes getting wider and his chest poking out like he was preparing for a fight. The silence bothered me so I said, “I have glasses in my bag.”
“I didn’t break anything,” he screamed. I kept walking to the other side of the court. “That doesn’t make a difference,” I screamed back.
I looked over at the tournament director’s girlfriend. She was angry as well, although
I thought it was for her boyfriend leaving her to be in the middle of this situation. Hearing the commotion in the first set, a bunch of people had gathered to watch. The match was in an urban park and the locals who may have never cared about tennis wanted to see what the ruckus was about.
They seemed to both welcome my going back at him and be afraid about what might
happen next. I was in a car crash and I wasn’t driving.
The crowd watching, and my outburst, only seemed to make my opponent’s behavior
worse. I started to wonder if he might have a weapon in his bag. But I was so enraged
myself that I didn’t care. I wasn’t married at the time and at that point was willing to die on that court.
I won the next game.
Then my opponent took all three balls and launched them, one at a time, over the
fence as far as he could. He sat down in the center of the court at the serving T, as if it
was a 1960s sit in.
I walked over to the fence where the tournament director’s girlfriend was sitting on
the other side.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
She did not respond, just got up and walked in the direction of where he balls might
have landed. She eventually came back with balls, even though I wasn’t sure they were the ones we were using. I didn’t care. About 15 minutes had gone by and I was beyond furious. If he couldn’t get defaulted for that there was no way she was going to do
anything. I imagined her thinking that she didn’t want the rage being directed to me to be directed at her.
My opponent was still sitting in the same spot at the service line.
I took the balls and went back to serve. To my surprise, he got up and went back to
return.
The pattern continued. Long points with me winning most of them and outbursts
after every point where he told me how much I had nothing. I would cross over on the other side of the court so I was never closer than 20 feet away from him. I was afraid he was going to take a swing at me if I got within five feet. Finally I closed it out.
Now came the hard part. I would have to come to the net to shake his hand. I know if
I didn’t go to shake his hand that may send him over the edge even more. But I was
scared if I put my hand out he would sucker punch me.
So I thought I might say something to defuse the situation.
So I timed my steps. I got within 10 steps when I decided, well, he did fight hard,
and maybe if I compliment him on that I can get out of this situation without any more problems.
“I said, “You sure fought hard out there,” as I put out my hand. He shook it as he
yelled. “I should have been seeded in this tournament and not faced you in the
semifinals.” Huh?
“I am 16th in the East,” he continued. I had a flashback to my working life and said,
just to be factually correct: “You couldn’t be 16th in the East. My friend Ken Rosewall
was 16th in the East. ‘
It was a Lucille Ball, “slowly I turn moment” moment.
His eyes became flares. “KEN ROSEWALL IS YOUR FRIEND? THAT IS THE
GUY WHO GOT ME ARRESTED!!!”
I realized at that point, it was Berserker.
I quickly grabbed my bag with a dent in the side of it. But Berserker was in hot
pursuit. “I should have kicked his ass when I had the opportunity!” I was in a full sprint at this point. “And if you weren’t running away I would kick yours too.”
I was on the other side of the fence at this point.
I asked the tournament director what time the final would be. She tells me and says,
“Thank you for your patience.”
Luckily, Berserker was still on the other side of the fence, but he was leaning right
against it screaming about how he was going to get me. I heard him scream something about what he would do to me in a rematch.
I had heard enough, and from the safety of the other side of the fence I screamed
back, “You wouldn’t have a chance.” I hustled to my car.
The last thing I heard from him was how I have to learn to be a better winner.

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Jamie Reynolds of ESPN on Approach Shots

Jamie Reynolds (Photo by Rich Arden/ESPN)

Tennis Panorama News had the unique opportunity to visit the ESPN broadcast compound  and spend time in the control room in Melbourne during coverage of the Australian Open back in January. Senior Vice President of Event Production for ESPN Jamie Reynolds took time out from his extremely hectic schedule to speak to us about the logistics, technologies, philosophy and personalities of ESPN’s Australian Open coverage.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How are the logistics of planning different for the Australian Open versus the other slams?

Jamie Reynolds: The way that we approach the Australian Open is similar in the way we do all four majors. And ESPN is unique in the aspect that we literally take apart our entire operation, our entire family, our entire circus and we take it three continents and an island.

We go to Australia and then go on to Paris, we then go up to the UK for Wimbledon and them back down to New York at the end of the summer. The nine month rip is pretty aggressive. So we probably pick up 115 people, and literally land on these hotspots for these events, move them in for three weeks. And I think we are probably the largest broadcaster who does all four majors at that level of commitment or the magnitude of the production assets that we bring. So it’s pretty challenging.

The biggest thing, the hardest thing for us, relative to the Australian Open, candidly is that we are upside down on the time zone to our audience and the fact that we don’t start until 9pm and we run the overnight hours, that’s great, but when we are trying to grow the sport, it’s a little challenging. How do you get people to stay up all night long or want to get invested, either TIVO, record, DVR the matches, because they are that much of a tennis fanatic to take advantage of what we are doing versus what they getting immediately either texting, news reports, Morning wheel of the news, they can get all that social currency to get up to steam.

So our challenge really, for this particular event is probably more editorial that logistic.

 

TPN: What is the biggest technological challenge in covering the Australian Open?

JR: This event is technically, is one of the easier events for us to handle technically. We’ve got a partnership going with Channel 7 Australia, who is also the host broadcaster. So ESPN comes in and effectively we are a world feed embellisher. We put our own character, our own personality, our own voices, graphics, music. Pick the asset that can actually tailor the world feed presentation to look and feel like a standard ESPN product.

So perhaps our biggest challenge is what if we don’t necessarily agree with you on covering a match? Or perhaps the isolation plan for Tomic or for Federer or for Roddick or for Rafa perhaps. That assignment of cameras may not be perhaps the level or the rate or philosophy that we might bring to a match. So how do we cover that chasm?

Technology wise we continue to push the envelope by bringing assets like the Spidercam, the aerial system that you see out on Rod Laver, that’s a device that we on ESPN brought to the tennis world and introduced at the majors at the US Open three years ago, convinced Tennis Australia, Channel 7 that it might enhance their coverage, convinced all the parties to come together and bring it down and fly through Rod Laver.

This year we’ve been very aggressive in trying to help Channel 7 understand how that could be an asset to enhance the coverage package. I think that everyday we chip away at it and get a little bit bolder with its flight pattern and we kind of rely on it a little bit more. I think that it enhances the value of its coverage.

 

TPN: Now that we are down to one American left in the singles draw, what are your angles going to be?

JR: Without the Americans doing well for the first time in the open era and not get to the round of 16, that’s challenging for us. Because we’ve got a lot of personalities and lot of what we do look at from the access to a lot of these players, what the interest is back home. Our particular productions have migrated to a new way of thinking. Specifically this is truly an international event with so many great personalities form around the globe, and because we do reach a lot of countries with ESPN, we think a little bit broader in how we are actually in going after a Hewitt story, a Roger or a Rafa or a Raonic or Tomic and any of the ladies as well.

That our goal now is to make that as personable, as desirable, in terms of wanting to understand the back story, getting our audience invested inn them, just trying to figure out the best way to convey that to our audience so they don’t mind that there are no Americans. We don’t have to put the red, white and blue all the time but there’s really great tennis out there that is fun.

 

TPN: Any new technology being implemented at this year’s Australian Open.

JR: The Australian mindset is very unique. They are gregarious fun loving good folks down here. They tend to be incredibly open-minded in terms of progressive introductions of new ideas to help convey the event and one of the initiatives they’ve helped us achieve is what we call our behind-the-scenes franchise. And that behind-the-scenes franchise as effectively as I describe to our teams is this: “Take behind the velvet ropes. Give me discovery and access. Take me places I couldn’t get to if I had a ticket or if I had the ability to watch every hour of what ESPN puts out, I need to feel like I actually in the event and going somewhere where no one else can go.”

And with that kind of mindset and philosophy with Tennis Australia, “where can you give us access to?” Well we can go to the workout room, we can go to the locker room, we can go to the hallways, the waiting rooms for the players, the player lounges. We can go to the car park area, where a lot of them just go and out their headsets on and just get into a zone and just kind of shut the world out to deconstruct their match. They’re very open-minded, progressive in terms of allowing that access. With that comes the ability to kind of shape the way we convey this event as opposed to just a rectangle on a screen, two players back and forth, three-hit rally or a 17-hit rally. It’s a little sexier, a little bit more valuable, more attractive presentation. I actually feel like I’m part of it, a part of the community, behind the velvet ropes and going somewhere where I couldn’t even go if I were on site.

 

TPN: What would surprise tennis fans about being behind the scenes?

JR: There’s an incredible amount of camaraderie and I think that what doesn’t convey that whether it’s the ATP or the WTA, these athletes and personalities do travel the circuit week after week and what you actually see behind-the-scenes is the feeling of family amongst the players themselves. As combative or as aggressive as they can be with each other out on a court there is sincere appreciation, chemistry, commitment to one another, whether they are having a good year or a poor year. There’s respect but there is a dynamic that these athletes share with each other. It’s not as adversarial as it might convey over an 11-hour show window where we are just showing guys beating back and forth with each other.

 

TPN: What is a typical day for you and the talent?

JR: This is probably the most challenging because of the sheer number of hours that we televise. When we say first ball to final ball, it is a very solid commitment to coverage of the most important matches from front end to back end. That really requires commitment of literally hours per day. So when you look at the first ball starting at 11am and often times ending like New York ending after Midnight, if not later, keeping people motivated through that 14-day stand is challenging. And with a roster of  personalities, our talent roster, keep them enthusiastic, keeping them invested and focused on being “on” for that 10 hours a day waiting for a match, getting ready for one that is coming up tonight,  and you really gotta go through your head for 2 hours and come back with the same enthusiasm, that’s challenging. You are asking a lot of people.

So what happens behind the scenes to help that? It’s the sense of community, family and respect for each other we all try to create. This isn’t just a group of specialists, assassins coming into do a single job. We’ve got to keep everybody working with the chemistry and taking advantage of that. So we’ll rotate teams. You might see Chris Evert working with Pam Shriver today or you will see Patrick McEnroe and Darren (Cahill) or Patrick and Chris Fowler so we can actually keep them involved with each other because they don’t have to always rule out “ Oh God I’m just sitting with my partner for this match and I’m doing every single match him for the next 14 days.” It changes up the dinner table a little bit.

 

TPN: Who are the practical jokers behind the scenes?

JR: I think that those in the tennis community and those of us who are running the sport know what kind of personality a Brad Gilbert brings. And we know, we look loving and fondly at Cliff Drysdale. He’s the godfather of our team, the elder statesman. As a perspective, he is the longest running talent on ESPN, bar none. He’s been with us since 1979, so we look at that history, having done Davis Cup that year, he is the man who is the franchise longer than anyone.

And then you look at Darren Cahill. Cahill with the Aussie wit, terrific personality. Patrick McEnroe, that’s pretty good – an acerbic wit. And McEnroe has a pretty good timbre to work with. Look at the gals – Mary Joe (Fernandez) and Pammy (Shriver) are well respected. Pammy can be polarizing, she’s got a great personality, she will go off on a flyer and make us all laugh and look at things a way many of us would never think about. She connects the dots on a lot of different stories and a lot of personalities. So that’s kind of like a really valuable spark. It’s a good roster.

Follow ESPN’s tennis coverage on ESPN2, ESPN3.com, on twitter @ESPNTennis and @ESPN10S and online on their tennis home page.

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Approach Shots: Sitting down with ATP Chair Umpire Fergus Murphy

MONTREAL – During the Rogers Cup in August, 2011,  Jennifer Knapp sat down with ATP Chair Umpire Fergus Murphy to discuss his life as an umpire on the ATP World Tour.

 

Karen Pestaina also contributed to this interview.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal shakes hands with chair umpire Fergus Murphy after retiring from his quarter-final match against Andy Murray of Britain at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 26, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)
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US Open Series Approach Shots: Winston-Salem Open Tournament Director Bill Oakes

Tennis Panorama News will be covering all of the US Open Series tournaments this summer. The final entry in our series of short Q & A’s with the Tournament Directors of some of the US Open Series tournaments is with Bill Oakes, the Tournament Director of the inaugural Winston-Salem Open.

 

Oakes recently served as the tournament director for the Atlanta Tennis Championships and as Director of Professional Tennis, Sales and Marketing for the USTA Southern Section.

TPN: What was the process of Winston-Salem obtaining a tournament?

BO: It was a long process, a group of people in WS have been working to bring an ATP event to WS for over 10 years.  With the tremendous success of the Davis Cup ties the last few years it put the USTA on the lookout for any events that may change hands.  When an event became available, WS was the first choice.

 

TPN: Did hosting Davis Cup twice fuel the desire for the city trying to lure a tournament to Winston-Salem?

BO: It certainly did.  The success of the Davis Cup tie showed that the community can support a tournament, and they just needed to find the right event.

 

TPN: How are you involving the community in the tournament?

BO: In many ways, with the recreational tennis community we are working with the staff at USTA NC to provide opportunities for juniors to experience the event, whether they are new to the game or the top juniors in the state.  Between our Kids Day on Monday that will provide an opportunity for new players to try it out, and the top juniors will come to a weekend camp to hopefully hone their skills and see what it takes at the top levels to succeed.  We are also working on a few other projects that hopefully we will have more information on in July.

 

TPN: You’ve been involved in many aspects of the tennis world through the years, what do you think will make the Winston-Salem Open successful?

BO: I started on February 10, and the progress in just 4 short months has been nothing short of phenomenal.  The tennis community, business community and WFU have stepped up very quickly to provide a great base for the tournament.  This support is a thorough and solid as I have ever seen, and I know that with this support we have a great starting block.  I think that 2011 is just the start, we will have a wonderful event, but we will continue to improve for 2012 and beyond.  Many of our sponsors are committed for 5 years and I think that really shows how committed they are.

Tennis Panorama News will be onsite covering the Winston-Salem Open this week. Follow our updates on the website and on our twitter account @GVTennisNews.

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