2014/04/18

Nick Bollettieri inducted into Tennis Industry Hall of Fame

NEW YORK, NY – Eighty-one year-old Nick Bollettieri was inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Grand Hyatt by former pupil an current ESPN TV tennis analyst Brad Gilbert. Bollettieri has coached 10 former world No. 1 players including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Marcelo Rios, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. His academy – The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy was founded in 1978.

He is coming out with autobiography in November called It Ain’t Easy.

Bollettieri joins previous Tennis Industry Hall of Fame inductees Howard Head (2008), Dennis Van der Meer (2008), Alan Schwartz (2009), and Billie Jean King (2010). Plaques of Tennis Industry Hall of Fame inductees are on permanent display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

 

Here are excerpts from Brad Gilbert’s introduction of Bollettieri and the coach’s induction speech.

 

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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“On The Call” with Brad Gilbert and Chris Evert

ESPN Tennis Analyst Brad Gilbert

On Wednesday ESPN’s Chris Evert and Brad Gilbert discussed the US Open which begins Monday, August 27, with extensive coverage on ESPN2 and ESPN3.  Jason Bernstein, senior director, programming & acquisitions, and Jamie Reynolds, vice president, production, were also on the line.

 

Q.  Wonder if Chris and Brad can both talk about Roger.  He’s pretty much had a great year and some people had not really written him off but sort of thought he was kind of the third or fourth guy, and will he ever win a major again and all that.  So he’s done real well and I’m just wondering what you think his chances are of winning the U.S. Open.

CHRIS EVERT:  You’re right.  I think a lot of people did write him off because Djokovic, the engineer that Djokovic had last year was phenomenal, and Nadal was looking sharp and he was looking like he was going to play seven to ten more years. Nadal, physically, to me, those two players looked a lot stronger.  And Roger almost looked a little bit frail in comparison, because, you know, just the training that they had done and how fit they were.

 

But, you know, Roger surprised us all.  I don’t know he’s gotten his second wind in his career.  It just seems likes there’s been a little bit of luck in the sense that Nadal seems to be injury‑prone and Djokovic, because he had such a great year last year, was sort of in and out this year, and really was inhuman to ask him to duplicate the year that he had last year.  So he had a few more up‑and‑downs.  But Roger came through and I guess it took the pressure off him when he was No. 3.  He wasn’t No. 1 and he wasn’t No. 2, and when he was ranked No. 3, I think not many people were talking about him; people were counting him out and I think it took the pressure off.

 

Certainly the last few months, he played the most beautiful tennis that we have seen in a long time.  And the fact that at the end of the year, he’s still playing so well, is remarkable, because this year has been as we all know, such a long year.

 

I already feel like we’ve had four Grand Slams, and now we are going to have a fifth Grand Slam coming here.  It’s just been a really rugged year for everybody.

 

BRAD GILBERT:  First of all, I think he’s the youngest 31‑year‑old ever and I think he can take a lot of stock in what Andre did about six or seven years, seeing somebody that he can remember that played great until he was 35.  He takes amazing, good care of his body and he never gets injured.  Has not missed a major in numerous years.  Has not in any injuries in his entire pro career.  And obviously his team does a great job of keeping him ready and he paces himself unbelievable on the schedule.  Doesn’t overplay and seems to know when to take breaks.

 

I’m a little bit surprised that he made this re‑push, but it’s not like baseball, he went from .370 to .220.  He just dropped off to No. 3, and the two guys, maybe the best top three of all time, and he just turned around a couple of matches that he had lost.

 

I remember the last two Opens he lost were matches where he had match points.  He’s been right there.  So it’s not like he fell very far and he’s regained his confidence in winning some of these big matches.  But the thing that amazes me more than anything, he never looks stressed on the court.  He barely even sweats.  He’s younger at 31 than Nada at 26.  Nadal seems older at his age than 26 than Fed does for his age at 31.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  Also, Brad, to take it one step further about his attitude, the beauty of him is that when he loses a match, even if it’s a big match, he just let’s it roll off his back.  And as you said, that’s part of being relaxed.  He physically plays a very relaxed game out there. The other two, I think, have to work harder when they play a match.  But Roger physically is relaxed; emotionally and mentally, he’s fine, but if he loses, he let’s it roll off his back.  He goes back to his family and he’s got another life outside of tennis that maybe keeps him fresh.  I think the attitude has a lot to do with it, too.

Q.  It does feel like there’s been four majors and I totally get that, given the Olympics.  I guess each guy has one, right?  So you have Federer, Djokovic and Murray each winning one.  Do you view the US Open as kind of settling anything?  Can you sum up who has been the dominant player?

BRAD GILBERT:  Well, you can definitely argue that whoever wins between Federer and Djokovic wins the Open, will more than likely be the Player of the Year and will almost certainly be the No. 1 player in the rankings at the end of the year. If somebody came from outside of ‑‑ we have not had somebody win four different majors in a season since 2003.  So if Murray were to win the Open, it would be four different winners.

 

I, like Chris, also feel like winning the Olympics is like winning a major, but we do have four majors, and so whoever wins this major will have a huge jump up on not only being the No. 1 player; being the Player of the Year, and I think there’s tons at stake in this event.

 

It’s just a little bit of a bummer that one of the leading singers in the band is not there in Nadal.  So that will completely change one‑half of the draw.  It will be interesting to see which half Murray goes on; whichever half he goes on, maybe the other path is the easier path this year to go to the finals.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  I agree with Brad in a sense that I think the Olympics is a fifth Grand Slam.  I still think of the top four Grand Slams, because of history and obviously more people play in the Grand Slam tournaments; bigger draws.  I think it is a different sort of setup than the Olympics.

 

But I think Djokovic, Federer, and I think you can say the same thing on the women’s side.  The last seven Grand Slams have been won ‑‑ the thing is, Serena is not a lock.  If Serena wins the Open, she would be a lock.  But if Sharapova wins the Open to win two Grand Slams, that would be a lock.  Azarenka won the Australian.

 

It’s the same thing in the women’s, and I think there for that’s why I think it will be such an exciting US Open, and because there’s so much at stake for both the men’s and the women’s draw.  And the fact that I think just so much has to do with how sharp they are mentally, how fresh they are.  Everybody’s body seems to be breaking down a little bit now and they are starting to get fatigued.

 

As we said before, it has been an usually tremendous year for the players as far as opportunities, but really, there’s been a lot of tennis.  You throw in a Davis Cup and Fed Cup, it’s been grueling.  It’s been a grueling year.  So the US Open comes at a time when it’s the hottest.  I always felt like I had to be in the best shape for the US Open condition‑wise, because of the heat.  You go over to Europe and it’s 70, 75, 80 degrees.  It’s almost like the heat doesn’t bother you as much.  It’s the end of the year, the toughest tournament on hard court, which is going to be maybe even hotter, and you just have to be physically in your best shape at the US Open I think of any of the Grand Slams.  That’s going to be a factor physically and mentally how fresh they are, and hopefully ‑‑ I don’t know, the creme is going to rise to the top during this tournament.

 

BRAD GILBERT:  You bring up a good point, the first week is a lighter week because they stretch the first round over three days.  And then if there’s any rain the second week, potentially ‑‑ you know, the last few years, there’s been at the back end of the tournament, sometimes guys having to play three days in a row is a brutal prospect, and it will be, you know, a big thing on who was the most economical in the early part of the tournament, or who is in the best physical shape.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  Well, I just remember the French and Wimbledon, we had jackets on at some times.  I mean, it was cold.  And the weather was ‑‑ and let me tell you, I mean, I get out here in Florida, I walk outside, and even in New York, you walk outside and you’re sweating in your clothes already.  It’s almost too bad that almost the Grand Slam of the year, when everybody is starting to get a little tired, has to be the one that you have to be in the best shape.  I mean, even though Australia is a hundred degrees, you still have two months to prepare for it.  You know, you don’t really have that time before the US Open to get used to the heat after being in Europe.

Q.  With regard to the US Open, for both of you, what makes it special?  And secondly, some of your favorite memories from opens you’ve played in the past.

CHRIS EVERT:  Well, I guess you’re talking to two Americans, so it’s obvious that, you know, I think for me, just being an American and playing my country’s championship was, you know, was always special.  Because when you go to Europe, it’s not the same.  In France, I never knew what they were saying, saying about me or saying about anybody.  England, you go over there and it has its own charm and prestige and it’s a wonderful, wonderful tournament.  But when you go to the US Open in New York, and it’s all about Americans and it’s all about supporting the Americans, and you feel it.

 

And even though ‑‑ and I don’t mean to complain like it’s the last Grand Slam and everybody is starting to get tired.  But I honestly did start to get tired around August, September.  But it lifted your spirits and it inspired you to still work hard and grind it out and just try to play your best tennis.  It really lifted you up to hear that crowd.  And to ask me what my favorite moments are, I can’t even ‑‑ gosh, I can’t even start to, I really can’t.  Brad, you go on and I’ll think about my favorite moments.

 

BRAD GILBERT:  Also, too, the US Open is the first major that went to a night session.  It’s the biggest tennis stadium in the world.  You have the most interesting mix of fans; they come from all over the world, all over the states.  You’ve got the hard court fans.  To me, you have small side courts, you have big courts, you have ‑‑ if you play on a side court, you’ve got people walking and going.  You’ve got music playing.  It’s one of the most interesting, I call it, two‑week parties, of all time.

 

As a kid, obviously as an American, you know, growing up and wanting to be in the Open and it’s one of the greatest cities in all of the world.  They just really know how to host the event.  I think some of my fondest memories, obviously when I was a kid, I think a crazy one, just remembering ‑‑ I think I just saw a replay of it was when McEnroe was playing Nastase and they got the umpire removed from the chair, Frank Hammond.  They got him removed from the chair. And Mike Blanchard, the tournament referee says, “I’ll umpire the rest of the match.

 

And just seeing night matches for the first time.  It was a tough night, but incredible match, sitting there for four sets watching Andre and Pete have no breaks and four sets, one of the most amazing matches that I ever saw in a night match there.  Unfortunately didn’t get the last point but it was an amazing match.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  Jimmy Connors, I guess the electricity in the crowds when the American players played, especially Jimmy and McEnroe, I remember Nastase, just with his antics.  You took me by surprise with that question, but my first US Open I think was just very special for me because that was sort of the beginning of ‑‑ it was a Cinderella story for me.  It was the beginning of my career.  Just the women that I had to beat to get to the semifinals and lose to Billie Jean, but having her say to me while we are walking out to the course, “You’re riding on the crest of a wave, enjoy it.”  I still remember those words.

 

I remember Tracy Austin with her pinafores and pigtails.  And I remember her beating me when she was 16.  It’s the one tournament I remember my losses just as vibrant as my wins.  I think that says a lot.  I think that really, because it affected me, I remember losing to Tracy and then I remember beating her a couple years later in the semifinal after I had lost to her five times in a row in tournaments, and never lost her again.  So it sort of revitalized my career over that win, and I remember that big Super Saturday match with Martina, which I lost.  But it was the loss ‑‑ the Super Saturday was bigger than any one match, and I remember that pretty much made history, that one Saturday that you had those three great matches.

 

I remember Renée Richards coming out and playing at the US Open and what a sort of enigma she was and the curiosity everybody had.  A lot of issues, you know, social issues were brought up.  Even Arthur Ashe, naming the stadium after him, and Billie Jean naming the whole ‑‑ the same sort, and then Billie Jean naming the whole US Open.  Wow, a lot of great things happened to American tennis players.  Very poignant.

 

THE MODERATOR:  From a TV production standpoint, Jamie, you’ve mentioned over time how the four slams, all of their different personalities, how does that play out in your efforts?

JAMIE REYNOLDS:  I think that’s a great point.  The point about this particular event, as everyone knows, the unique character of being in New York and being one of the hottest tickets available, it’s clearly the extravaganza; it’s the paparazzi and the red carpet treatment as the summer wind down and concludes.

 

With the personalities like Chris and Brad and the rest of our team, the family captures the historical perspective and the energy and excitement that comes across in this event; either through the day session here or certainly during primetime theatre at night, which is our focus through many of these windows to just have an evening that goes well on past midnight more often than not.

 

So that’s really our approach.  When you look at the four majors and the Australian Open, which is great fun in the sun during the winter months here in the northern hemisphere; and the French with its Parisian flair, obviously, and the tonality of what that city offers in a backdrop; and obviously the cathedral that is Wimbledon, is a whole different event.

 

Now being able to ride the wave of Wimbledon, the success there, and then on through tennis, the buzz that came through tennis in August back at SW and coming now back in New York, it’s a great amount of energy and terrific amount of enthusiasm surrounding this event now, which as Brad and Chris so poignantly pointed out, there are terrific stories that will shape this year and define this year that will certainly make 2013 a great run for all of us.

Q.  Brad, how big of a psychological boost do you think the Olympics will be for Andy, and how do you sense the last couple of weeks he’s had where there’s been a few issues?  And for Chris, with everything that’s Serena has been through the last couple of years, is it written in the stars that she’s got unfinished business there?

BRAD GILBERT:  I think the Olympics was a huge boost to his confidence, because it’s the first time that he beat the No. 1 and 2 in a world in a major.  He had done it in Masters Series but never in a major.  I think that was a huge piece for him, and especially he lost three times to Roger in best‑of‑five in the finals.  And to do it the way he did; I actually thought that would lead him to have a pretty big summer.

 

But I’m sure made the right call in pulling out of Canada and not stressing.  He said he had some sort of knee injury that he never had.  I was surprised he lost early in Cincinnati, but you know, I see that Lendl is already there with him in New York and I’m sure that he’ll be able to put all of this behind him and just work his way in the tournament.

 

I think the big $64,000 question, which half will you go on, will he go on the Djokovic half or will he go on Federer’s half.  But the way he was playing at the Olympics, if he can sustain that level for 21 sets, I have no doubt that he can win a major.  It’s just the way he played the last two matches in beating Djokovic and Federer both in straight sets; but the way he did it, he did it by winning it, by going through guys.  Not waiting for guys to make mistakes.

 

I think ultimately, that’s what will push him, and I’m sure that’s what Ivan is looking for him to do more of; be more proactive on the court.  You know, if he won, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.  I feel like the tournament is about three deep to win it, maybe, maybe four if he won, include Djoko, that’s about it.  That’s just kind of the way it is in the men’s.   It’s obviously a little bit different this year with Nadal not in it, but I’m expecting exciting ‑‑ and I would love to see Andy in the business end of the tournament.

Q.  And Serena, the last couple of years, all sorts of things have gone wrong; is it written that she’s a dominant player and she can confirm that again?

CHRIS EVERT:  Well, I think Serena has proved more times than none that when she’s motivated and healthy and playing well, she’s the player to beat.  I think that’s obvious.  If you put Sharapova at her best against Serena at her best playing for a title, you know, Serena is going to be the one to win.

 

The question is:  As we saw at the Australian when she was out early and the French Open when she was out early, and a couple weeks ago when she lost a match, the question is, can she keep that level of tennis for over a two‑week period consistently.  The danger, she is going to be her rival or worst opponent.  I don’t think it’s going to take a player who has a hot day to beat her.  I think it’s more like going to take Serena, if she’s below par, and that very well happens the older you get.  You have more flat days.

 

You have to remember, also, two other things.  No. 1, he dominated on the grass.  I mean, it was really good luck to her that the two big tournaments, Wimbledon and the Olympics were on grass.  Basically that’s her surface and that’s basically where no one is going to return her serve and she’s going to get 20 aces a match.  That’s the surface that balls don’t come back as much as they will on the hard court.

 

She’s going to have to work hard the next two weeks, because there are a lot of eager players out there, as we have seen the last couple weeks, with Li Na and Kvitova and Wozniacki and Sharapova, Azarenka.  There are a lot of tough players that are good, solid hard court players; that she’s going to have to play her best tennis.  Kim Clijsters, her last year.  She’s going to have some momentum going in.

 

Serena will have to work harder the US Open than she did at Wimbledon.  She had a lot of free points at Wimbledon and the Olympics because it was on grass and shots didn’t come back, and she dictated every point.  This is going to be a different story.  She’s going to have to run down a lot more balls and get a lot more balls back, be more consistent and probably be even in better shape.  So therein the question lies; can she do it.  Of course she can.  But will she do it?  I’m not sure.  I’m not 100% sure.

Q.  Kevin Anderson is really struggling at the moment and probably won’t be seeded; I wanted to know, in general, what does a player have to do when in a slump?‑

BRAD GILBERT:  You know, that’s a great question.  He’s a big guy, at 6’8″, and about three years ago, he dramatically changed his game.  He used to be much more of a counter‑puncher for a 6’8″ guy and then started working with this Australian guy, besides the South African guy he works with.

 

He’s a statistic ‑‑ a static‑guru guy, and he started working with this guy.  And he also works with a few of the other guys that played with him at the University of Illinois on changing his game to being like one of the biggest hitters.  I guess he showed him these statistics, this Australian guy, about being aggressive.

 

Now when I watch him play, it’s almost like he plays too aggressive.  You know, he just tries to play maybe too big on every ball.  And now, at about 34 I think he is in the rankings, he’s obviously the biggest and he’s going to be a little bit at the mercy of the draw.  Because now obviously he won’t be seeded and, you know, potentially, if he doesn’t play a seed first round, he’s got to play one second round.

 

You know, sometimes with tennis players, it’s quickly as you lose the confidence, sometimes you win one close match, you win a 7‑6 in a third, you win one of those close matches, you can regain the confidence.

 

I think it’s easier for a guy at 6’8″ possibly than a little guy, because the way he plays, his serve, if he’s having a big day on a serve, he’s tough for anybody to beat.  So I think that’s his big shot, big weapon, at 6’8″, and sometimes when I do watch him play, I feel like it’s a guy on the end of a ten‑meter diving board.  He’s on the edge by how aggressive he does play.

Q.  My question to you about is the depth of American men, there don’t seem to be many players coming through.  And I wanted to ask how you feel about the chances of Kim Clijsters.

BRAD GILBERT:  Obviously the Americans have four guys in the top 28, but for most countries, that’s pretty good.  Obviously for our pedigree and where we’ve been for the last 50 years in tennis, any time we don’t have someone in the top 5, you know, people ask these questions.

 

Unfortunately, if you look at the rankings, the top four guys haven’t moved.  Just because we want to have a top guy in tennis, so does everybody else.  I mean, before Fed, Switzerland never had anybody great.  It just slows how global the game is, where they are playing all over the world, and there’s just no birthright that you can have a great player.  We want to, desperately, and as you know, we have lots of great athletes and lots of many other sports.  And hopefully, I’m a patient person, and hopefully, somebody will come.  And you know, the USTA is doing more.  We are doing a lot more with QuickStart Tennis to try to get a lot more kids involved in tennis.  But me included; I want to see somebody in the business end of the majors.  I want to see somebody in the semifinals or finals of a major, but we might just have to be patient.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  With Kim Clijsters, she’s won it twice before and she has the game, she has that hard court game.  She has every ingredient to win it again.  She’s one of the few players that plays great defensively, as well as offensively.  So she can run down balls all day.  That’s why she needs her body to be healthy and that’s sort of a question mark right now is just the last few weeks, she has been injured.  But I think she’s got every shot in the book.  She can volley and hit ground stroke and she’s got a good serve.  She moves well.  She can handle a Serena or a Marina Sharapova’s power very well.  Mentally she’s tough, and it is her last tournament.  Will she just put everything she has into this one last tournament?  I think she’s been a little disappointed with the way her summer has panned out.  I think she would have liked to have done better at Wimbledon and the Olympics.  But I think at this point, hopefully she’s excited about her last big hurrah coming at a very special time in her life and coming at a very special place where she’s had so many fond memories.  But, you know, her body is a big thing.  That’s the question mark.

 

THE MODERATOR:  I have a question for somebody who e‑mailed and said they are going to work off the transcript we send out.  We brushed by this topic, but what is the impact of the Olympics on players physically, having that extra big event this summer, making it a really crowded schedule?

BRAD GILBERT:  Obviously, the hardest thing is most of the top guys, after Wimbledon, they rest for about a month to get ready to play on hard court in Canada. Now, I think the hardest transition is going from grass to hard court, because it’s a surface that’s the toughest on your body.  So now, a lot of these guys ‑‑ I mean Djokovic went right from playing the last Sunday at the Olympics to playing right away at Canada.  So it’s like these guys had no rest time to prepare for two Masters Series, week off, US Open.

 

I think that obviously, physically, it’s going to be about how they manage their body and how they can just keep their mind and body free of injury.  I mean, I just think it’s a really tough transition going from grass to hard court with no time.  So maybe, the guys that played at the end of the Olympics, you might say it’s a little bit of an equalizer potentially; for the guys that didn’t play in it, maybe somebody might have an off‑day or they are tired from the grind of this whole summer.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  Yeah, I think that players, when they look, when they map out their year, they like to have certain periods of the year where they had rest and like to have certain periods of the year where they train a little bit harder.  You really have to pace yourself during the year. I think as Brad said, after Wimbledon is one crucial time for a tennis player to take their rest.  Because most of them have been over in Europe for anywhere from six to eight weeks, and they have been playing tournament after tournament after tournament.

 

And before they get ready for the heat, which is going to be ‑‑ which is a factor, along with the hard courts, getting used to; to gradually get used to the heat and to rest, you really as a player ‑‑ I mean, I remember I liked to, anyway. You like to take anywhere from two to four weeks and sort of relax and rest and then slowly get back into, okay, I’ve got one last go here and it’s on hard courts and the heat at the US Open, and then you just start gradually training.  Well, the players didn’t really have that this year, at all.

 

BRAD GILBERT:  After the Open, they step it down a little bit.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  And if you look at the women right now, Sharapova, she pulled out of two tournaments because of a virus.  And you look at Radwanska, she’s in trouble.  She had to pull out of New Haven.  I think the players already have showed signs of fatigue; the ones that did well, so far that had played in the Olympics and had grueling summers, and this is actually the right time for those players like a Clijsters or Azarenka or a Kerber or Wozniacki, players that maybe didn’t have that great of a first half of the year to kind of sneak in there and they are going to be the fresher players.  So it’s definitely ‑‑ I think we are going to see some effects from some players.

Q.  Do you have a dark horse, somebody under the radar that might sneak in and steal it?

BRAD GILBERT:  I always like to call dark horses when I see the draw.  Sometime it’s easier to prognosticate where guys are.  We’ll know the draw more tomorrow.  It will be interesting it see where Isner falls in the draw, because I think he is somebody that has potential.

 

I think the ‘Missile’ from Canada, Raonic, is somebody that has potential, very soon, to make a major breakthrough.  I think he’s got firepower, and I think he has next‑level capabilities, where he falls in the draw.  Those are two people right away where you kind of see where they are going to be in the draw.

 

And if anybody, you know, is capable of really making ‑‑ it’s a stretch to say somebody is a dark horse.  But I mean, Del Potro, I think is starting to get back.  I don’t think he’s back to where he was in 2009, but he’s starting to get a lot better and he’s somebody that obviously has won before.  I think that he’s potential to being close to back there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a big Open, as well.

 

CHRIS EVERT:  When I look at the Top‑10 women, it’s so good and so solid and so close that I really don’t see anybody creeping into making any sort of statement outside the Top‑10 as far as reaching the final or winning it or whatever.

 

You look at Kerber, and even though she’s ranked, I think, what, five in the world right now, she was out of the Top‑100 at this time last year.  She’s got that fire in her; she’s got that look that she wants to annihilate you.  I don’t think the American public has probably has heard of her as much as some of the other top players, so she can sneak in there, as Kim Clijsters if she’s healthy.  Kim Clijsters, again, everybody wishes her to do well, but if she’s healthy, she’s beaten everybody in this draw; she’s beaten everybody in the past five, six, seven years, and she knows how to win.  So she could sneak in there. But you know, it’s pretty solid.  And I didn’t even mention the defending champion, Sam Stosur; people are not even mentioning her and she won it last year.  You know, again, Wozniacki, she was No. 1 last year.  Just to look and see how well Radwanska has done this year, and Li Na with the new coach is starting to hit her stride and Kvitova, who won Wimbledon last year.  This Top‑10 is so solid and so strong depth‑wise, that I just think the winner is going to come out of the Top‑10.

Tennis Panorama News participates in many tennis media conference calls. “On The Call” serves to give readers an inside view of tennis news.

ESPN & the 2012 US Open: Nearly 100 Hours on ESPN2 HD; 400 on ESPN3

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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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Brad Gilbert, Owen Davidson to join Andre Agassi and Todd Martin in Exhibition Match

 

On the day after his induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Andre Agassi will take to the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame for the Hall of Fame Classic Exhibition Match. Agassi will pair up with his former coach and good friend, Brad Gilbert to play against Hall of Famer Owen Davidson and former top-10 ATP World Tour star Todd Martin. The match will be played at 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 10.

 

“We are looking forward to a great weekend at the International Tennis Hall of Fame as we celebrate the induction of one of the most exciting athletes of our sport. We’re pleased to deliver fans the opportunity to see Andre back in action again, and to see him playing with his longtime friend and coach Brad Gilbert will be a particularly special highlight of the weekend. We know they’ll enjoy seeing Todd Martin and Owen Davidson in action as well, as they are always exciting to watch,” said Hall of Fame CEO Mark L. Stenning.

 

An eight-time grand slam champion and Olympic gold medalist, Agassi held the No. 1 singles ranking for 101 weeks, and is one of the most exciting, adored tennis players of all time. During the height of his career, from 1994 – 2002, he was coached by Gilbert, who was a former top-5 player. Following his time with Agassi, Gilbert went on to coach Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Alex Bogdanović. He is currently a tennis commentator for ESPN and is coaching Kei Nishikori.

 

Australian Owen Davidson was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010. “Davo”, as his is fondly known, is one of just 13 people who have won a calendar-year Grand Slam at the Tour level in the history of tennis, which he achieved in 1967 when partnered with Lesley Turner Bowrey and Billie Jean King in mixed doubles. Davidson will partner with former ATP World Tour star Todd Martin, who was a top-10 player on the Tour at the same time as Agassi. The two players faced off 18 times during their career, with Agassi taking 13 wins. Martin captured 8 ATP World Tour titles was a finalist at both the Australian Open and the US Open.

 

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Net Notes for June 14, 2011

Kim Clijsters of Belgium pauses during her French Open womens second round match against Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands at Roland Garros in Paris on May 26, 2011. Rus defeated Clijsters 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 to advance to the third round. UPI/David Silpa

 

In The News:

 

Serena Williams of the U.S. returns the ball during her International Women’s Open tennis tournament match against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria in Eastbourne, southern England June 14, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

 

Serena Williams is back in action after almost a year off the court. She rallied to beat Tsvetana Pironkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 at Eastbourne. She’ll face Vera Zvonareva next in a 2010 Wimbledon Final re-match. “Rusty” Serena Williams Nails First Match of Comeback

 

While Williams was back on court winning, Kim Clijsters was hobbling on court falling to Romina Oprandi at teh UNICEF Open. It appeared that Clijsters was still haveing ankle problems which could put her Wimbledon participation in doubt.

Lleyton Hewitt was forced to retire from his match against Olivier Rochus wiht a toe injury.

 

ESPN held their Wimbledon media conference call – read more about it-“On The Call” with Chris Evert and Brad Gilbert

 

“On The Call” with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe

 

Bank of the West Classic  announced their player field includes Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova

 

Upsets of the Day

Eastbourne

S Devvarman (IND) d [4] G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 63 64
[Q] R Schuettler (GER) d [5] S Stakhovsky (UKR) 63 62

‘s-Hertogenbosch

(Q) Romina Oprandi (ITA) d. (1) Kim Clijsters (BEL) 76(5) 63

A Bogomolov Jr. (USA) d [7] J Chardy (FRA) 36 64 76(7)

Eastbourne June 14 Results and June 15 Order of Play
UNICEF Open – ‘s-Hertogenbosch June 14 Results and June 15 Order of Play

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“On The Call” with Chris Evert and Brad Gilbert

ESPN Tennis Analyst Brad Gilbert

ESPN tennis analysts Brad Gilbert and the newly hired Chris Evert, along with ESPN executives Jason Bernstein, Jed Drake and Jamie Reynolds discussed 2011 Wimbledon on a media conference call on Tuesday. Here are a few excerpts from the call:

 

On who is the favorite to win on the men’s side:

Brad Gilbert: I mean, you’ve got to start with the top four.  They kind of separated themselves especially the way  I mean, Rafa’s played tremendous, Fed’s got a track record, Djokovic has been on fire this year, and Murray just won Queens.  So I think one of those four.  I would be very surprised if it was anything further than that.  I mean, some guys could make some runs, but winning this tournament will be one of those four guys for sure.

Chris Evert: I really think it’s interesting because I don’t think ever before we’ve had four guys in contention.  It’s always been two.  And I agree with Brad.  I cannot even give anybody the edge.  I think it’s a total toss up between the four of them. Andy Murray being the fourth because he’s going to have that extra motivation playing at Wimbledon and because he seems to be the sharpest current player on the grass right now.  It’s tremendous the way that any one of those four could win it.

On the Williams Sisters:

Chris Evert: Whenever they enter a grand slam tournament it’s double the excitement and double the intrigue, I think, that they bring to the sport.  They just bring a different level of tennis also, as far as the power and the emotional content.

 

It would be monumental in my mind if Serena pulled off a win.  You can never, ever count her out.  But I personally don’t  I don’t know how it’s humanly possible for someone to take a year off like that and have gone through what she’s been through physically with her ailments and really hasn’t had a tremendous amount of practice, really a one‑tournament warm‑up.  It would just  it would almost shock me if she did, but knowing Serena and the way she’s come back before, you can never count her out.

 

Venus is sort of a dark horse because really she kind of  Serena gets all the press.  But Venus will sort of come into the tournament, I think, very quietly.  She does the job and she still has the best  I think of the two, she has the better Wimbledon record.  And she loves grass and she plays great on it.  Yeah, she’s definitely in contention also.  I think that all eyes will be on the big story which is more Serena than anybody.  I think hoping that she health‑wise and physically‑wise can hold up under the stress of the tournament.  It will be interesting to see how she plays.

 

Brad Gilbert: I think it’s going to be huge for both Serena and Venus how much matches they get in this week.  And then it will be for me how she’s going to get through that first week.  If she gets through that first week, then all of a sudden her third week of play and once they kind of get a little confidence in their game, they become completely different players.  I think they really like to prove everybody wrong like, wow, how could they do this?  Well, every time people think they can’t do something is when they step up.  The first big thing will be the draw, where they’re seeded, where they land in the draw.  It’s just basically getting through that first week.  I think she could be more vulnerable in the first week than the second week because of match play or confidence.  You just never know.  But if they do get through that first week, watch out.

 

On Wimbledon storylines:

Chris Evert: As far as story lines, everything is just going to get pushed in the background, I think with Serena and the Venus.  The big story line leading up to the French was Wozniacki.  She’s been ranked No. 1 in the world without a grand slam.  I was very disappointed at the French.  I really thought she would take that opportunity and win the French and silence her critics because she certainly has the game to win on clay.  But she played too many tournaments leading up to it.  Actually, she’s played too many tournaments all year. I think piling up those tournaments and being ranked No. 1 is good to a certain point, but then you’ve got to pace yourself if you want to win the Grand Slams.  And she was absolutely flat out there at the French when she lost her match. So I think the story that will be in the background will be when is she going to win her first grand slam title?  I don’t think it’s going to be Wimbledon.  I just don’t think you need a little power in your game at Wimbledon, and I think that’s what’s been lacking in her.  So that could be one story.  Li Na, the continuation of her emergence and winning the grand slam, being runner‑up in the Australian, the excitement in China, just the impact she’s had on the Chinese and on tennis in China will be another one. Sharapova has been lacking a grand slam in a long time.  She’s gone through a lot of injuries and a lot of problems with her serve.  Can she get it together?  Can she get that serve together?  She could have won the French.  She was so close.  Then it got windy, and her serve got thrown off completely.  But she could come back and win Wimbledon also.  But I think that’s going to be another story.

Other players with a chance at Winning Wimbledon:

Chris Evert:  Well, on the women’s side, I brought up Sharapova, and I did talk a little bit about her.  She’s done really well this year, and she’s been consistently a semifinalist or finalist.  I think if she can get her serve together, she’s won Wimbledon before.  She’s mentally really a tough player.  I think she can do some damage and maybe even win Wimbledon.  And you’ve got to look at  you can’t count out Li Na.  You can’t count her out.  And Kim Clistjers, again, she surprised us a few times.  She’s got a nice, powerful, solid game, an all‑court game.  She’s tough.  She can volley well.  If she’s healthy, she’s a contender. I would put those Clistjers, Sharapova and Li Na, I would put them as the next three.

Brad Gilbert:  For me, if the Williams sisters weren’t in it, because that was the big mystery, I was going to say this tournament just like the French Open, man, I could see 15, 20 different women winning.  But obviously now with the Williams sisters that changes the equation.  We obviously need to see the draw. One gal that I think has a nice game moving forward in the next few years with the grass, she had her breakout last year, I don’t know how she’ll perform this year with the semifinals coming off.  But Petra Kvitova, the 6‑foot lefty has a nice game.  She could be somebody that is a dark horse because her game seemingly would be suited for the grass.  A big power hitter, one of the best on the Women’s Tour, so she would definitely be a dark horse for me.

Chris Evert:  The other thing is one of the reporters brought up Serena and Venus might be thinking well, we’ll prove them wrong because no one’s picking us.  But I think the reaction to them coming back, I think they’re going to get so much support and I think that people want to see success, and people want to Serena and Venus do well. i kind of think they might have felt that way in the past.  When they played, they were so dominant that maybe the crowds didn’t favor them because they were so strong.  But I think now the public will really embrace them and really support them in coming back.  Again, I think that’s going to be a different attitude that the crowd has towards them.

On Djokovic:

Brad Gilbert: Last year at this time, when he got to the semis, he wasn’t nearly the player that he is now.  He was really struggling with his serve and his forehand wasn’t as dominant.  The guy moves outrageous, like a gazelle.  He’s serving so much better this year.  It’s incredible.  I mean, his stats, if you look at his serving stats in 2011 compared to 2010, it’s incredible the difference.  His return is off the charts. His game, like I said, last year I was surprised that he didn’t beat Berdych in the semis last year.  And he wasn’t playing, like I said, anywhere near the way he is now.  I would think that getting to the is semifinals last year will give him the confidence that I can win this event. Yeah, he’s definitely one of the four favorites to win it.  There’s no question.

Chris Evert:  Probably by losing the French, that is going to give him more incentive.  I always remember whenever I lost a match going into a major, I mean, I was pissed.  It made me so much more determined than having that monkey on my back.  Having all that pressure of being undefeated for the whole year and is he going to continue it at Wimbledon?  Now the pressure’s off.  I think that will be a positive for him.

For more information on ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage schedule- ESPN To Provide Wimbledon Coverage Over Multiple Platforms

Tennis Panorama News participates in many tennis media conference calls. “On The Call” serves to give readers an inside view of tennis news.

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